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    Tuesday, November 29, 2022

    Jackson Poulton: The Little Quarterback Who Could

    Ledyard quarterback Jackson Poulton (11) shuffle passes the ball to a teammate against New London’s Denzell Norman (14) during the Nov. 12 game at New London High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Ledyard – Picture it: Your first day on the job at Netflix. You are assigned to brainstorm a high school football movie. And you need to cast a quarterback.

    Ah, yes. Strong and strapping. Golden hair waving in the wind. Girls walk by him and pass out. Boys walk by him and are suddenly afflicted with an inferiority complex. Put it this way: There’s a reason Sunshine checked all the aforementioned boxes in “Remember The Titans.”

    And then there’s Jackson Poulton, The Little Quarterback Who Could, at Ledyard High. All 5-foot-7 of him. He must be in the huddle somewhere.

    “We make fun of Jackson all the time,” friend and teammate James Green was saying the other day. “For his height, sure. We call him ‘choirboy’ because he sings in the choir. But believe me, he’s no one trick pony.”

    Pony? Nah. Try full onset horse this season. Indeed, this choirboy is ample evidence that dynamite needn’t be conspicuous so long as it had a lit fuse.

    And to think, as the Colonels prepare for a win-and-in game at Fitch on Thanksgiving, this quarterback thing didn’t happen until three players went boltin’ that led the way to Poulton.

    “After last season, there was talk around the school about possible transfers,” Poulton said, alluding to 2021 quarterback Justin Outlow, who left for St. Bernard with his brother, Ryan, Ledyard’s leading rusher last season.

    “I didn't want to believe it because they're great guys,” Poulton said. “But come to find out they legit transferred. And I was pretty excited to come in at quarterback because I've been playing quarterback for most of my life. Having to play running back kind of killed me a little bit.”

    The Outlows have gone to help Thames River to the brink of the playoffs as well. But their departure left Ledyard without two of its best returning players. The result? An 8-1 record and a division title maybe nobody saw coming.

    Except this: Ledyard coach Mike Serricchio can awaken each day and say quite proudly, “We have Jackson and you don’t.”

    “He’s unbelievably smart, a high football IQ,” Serricchio said. “He’s tough, mentally and physically. He's freakishly athletic. You know, he's a sprinter a shot put guy on the track team but I think it's the IQ that sets him apart.

    “Coming in cold and having a mastery of the offense has been such a blessing for us because it really comes down to your quarterback play. As good as James (Green) is, if you're not reading and giving him the ball when you’re supposed to, it doesn’t work. He's been a revelation for us. That’s why he’s ‘The Colonel.’”

    Green, aptly called “The Playmaker” by GameDay voice Casey O’Neill, has more than 1,600 rushing yards in nine games. And yet most of Green’s gains rely on how well Poulton reads defenses. Keep it, run it, pitch it or throw it?

    “Jackson’s got a big heart,” Green said. “He might be, you know, a little short, but he’s got a big heart and he knows how to read (the defense). He's very patient. It’s what really makes him different from every other quarterback.”

    Poulton’s size belies his mastery of the quarterback sneak, too. It seems counterintuitive to ask the smallest kid on the field to move the pile forward for a yard on fourth down. And yet Poulton has run for numerous first downs on football’s most elemental play, not to mention several touchdowns.

    It may be the offense’s favorite call. Because everyone is behind the quarterback, figuratively and literally, giving him a shove if he needs it. This is called symbolism.

    “The team culture is a lot better this year than it was last year.” Poulton said. “We had some cliques and no one really came together. But this year, coach Serricchio was big on culture and how we need to fix it. And that's what was holding us back. We have a better culture this year. That’s the foundation.”

    Serricchio: “This has been about belief. Total unity. A staff that's aligned, kids that are aligned. Not a selfish player in the bunch. Not a selfish coach. People believing in the system.”

    And believing in The Little Quarterback Who Could.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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