The Lonesome Polecat (SE Conn variant): Thames River is rolling right along
The Thames River co-op hasn’t been doing anything differently this season according to first-year head coach Craig Sylvester.
The Crusaders have just been playing well. Period.
Thames River remains unbeaten after Saturday’s nail-biting 26-20 win at Prince Tech, the latter which is generally one of the top teams in the Connecticut Technical Conference.
“I think all of the (CTC) programs are very young this year,” Sylvester said. “Everyone has a chance. It’s just that the kids are doing what they have to do on the field and are locked in.
“Right now, we’re on a roll, but anything can happen.”
The Crusaders (3-0) are made up of players from Grasso Tech, Norwich Tech and St. Bernard.
Rival Quinebaug Valley (2-0), and Cheney Tech (3-0) are the only other unbeaten teams left in the CTC.
Sylvester, who was a Thames assistant the last eight seasons, said the program started the regular season with 56 players. That’s higher than usual (he said they usually have around 42) which can be attributed to large freshman classes at both Grasso and Norwich. Thirty-one of the players are freshman.
Thames River has just seven seniors and only 10 players back from the 2019 team. Fortunately, two of the returnees are third-year starting quarterback Jackson Brenek (senior) and junior Seth Cunningham, who ran for over 1,300 yards as a freshman.
“It feels good to have them back,” Sylvester said. “They’re the leaders on the offense and they’re the ones that are driving us. Those two young men are leaders and I’m glad I have them.”
Seniors Jake Darras (center) and Alex Whittle (right guard) and juniors David Clang (right tackle), Patrick Daley (left tackle) and Jayden Faison (left guard) have contributed to Brenek and Cunningham’s success.
The Crusaders defense stopped Prince Tech to start overtime in Saturday’s game. They had a fourth-and-goal from the Falcons’ 2-yard line when Cunningham ran for the go-ahead touchdown.
Brenek threw for 224 yards with a touchdown and scored on a 1-yard run in the win. Xavier Jackson had 148 yards receiving and a TD, Dom Martinez scored on a fumble return and Cunningham ran for 120 yards.
“It’s been a crazy roller coaster ride,” Sylvester said. “They’re playing well right now. I’m very proud of them and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these guys.”
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Fitch is 2-0, having won both of its games by modest scores of 13-7 and 12-7. Coach Mike Ellis’ postgame comments after Friday’s win at New London suggested that the offense is the proverbial “work in progress.”
But the defense? Another story. The Falcons held New London to the same number to which they held Stonington in week one. Consider that the Bears have scored more than 100 points in two games since.
“Our defense is a cohesive unit,” Ellis said. “But our offense has to do more to keep them off the field.”
Defensive linemen Sean Porter, Eli Shelton and Andre Portillo had quarterback sacks Friday night, frequently pressuring and disrupting New London quarterback Roddy Pratts.
New London’s lone touchdown came thanks more to special teams than offense. New London’s Lio Griffin-Hill executed a perfect fake punt, hitting Herbie Bonneau with a 30-yard completion. Josiah Williams scored later in the possession.
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Ryan Outlow could have spent much of the postgame talking about himself, given that he ran for 246 yards and four scores in Saturday's 34-8 win over Waterford. But he’d rather talk about his friend Andrew Harris.
Harris, also a fullback, had to play center in place of starter Tyler Smith, who missed the game.
“Andrew didn’t play his normal position today and he really stepped up,” Outlow said.
Ledyard coach Mike Serricchio expects Smith back next week, but chuckled at Outlow, who got a little tired as the lone fullback.
“I said, ‘don’t worry, Andrew will be back next week,” Serricchio said.
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Quarterback Jayden Desilus and wide receiver Maxson Pierre Louis were the offensive stars of Norwich Free Academy’s dramatic 28-26 win over East Lyme on Friday night. They hooked up on three touchdown pass plays covering three, 17 and 29 yards.
Junior running back Jake Kenney deserves praise, too. He rushed for roughly 130 yards, doing major damage in the NFA’s first and last series of the game.
In NFA’s game-opening touchdown drive, Kenney accounted for 40 of the team’s 57 yards.
Then with the Wildcats clinging to a 28-20 lead late in the fourth quarter, Kenney helped sustain a long drive and take time off the clock by piling up 43 yards.
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Thanks to Mike DiMauro (Fitch-New London, Ledyard-Waterford) and Gavin Keefe (NFA-East Lyme) for their contributions to this here article.
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