East Lyme rallies past Waterford
East Lyme — Rudy Bagos knew his East Lyme football team was getting better as the season went on. The numbers, however, just didn't back him up.
The youthful Vikings entered their Thanksgiving Day matchup with Waterford at 2-7, beating a pair of teams (Woodstock and Jonathan Law) that both finished 1-9.
The validation came Thursday, with a 31-13 win at Dick North Memorial Field after spotting the Lancers a 13-0 lead.
"It was a good feeling for these guys to come back like that,'' said Bagos, East Lyme's third-year coach. "I'm very happy for these seniors.''
Waterford (3-7) controlled the first quarter. Spencer Hoagland ended the opening drive with a 29-yard field goal. Three plays later A.J. Combs picked off a Dylan Hatajik pass and returned it nine yards for a touchdown and Hoagland's extra point made it 10-0.
Hoagland, who missed a 31-yard attempt with five minutes left in the first quarter, made a 23-yarder with 1:57 left in the quarter for a 13-0 lead.
"They had their chance to put us out of our misery early,'' said Bagos. "And they didn't. We could have been down 21-0.''
East Lyme got on the scoreboard on the first play of the second quarter. Wide receiver Evan Tryon got behind the Waterford defense and Hatajik lofted a 64-yard touchdown pass to him. Brett Bragaw's kick made it 13-7.
The Vikings almost took the lead on the final drive of the first half, going from their own 9 down to the Waterford 9 in the final four minutes. But Noah Concascia of Waterford picked off a Hatajik pass at the goal line on the final play of the half.
Still, East Lyme had been picked off three times and fumbled for a fourth turnover, and trailed by six.
"We had a couple of turnovers in the first half that set us back,'' said East Lyme senior captain Travis Franco. "We just pulled together (in the second half).''
That they did. East Lyme took the second-half kickoff and went 87 yards, capped off by a rambling 54-yard run up the middle by Isaac Tomblin. Bragaw's kick gave East Lyme it's first lead at 14-13. Two plays later Dalton Franco stepped in front of a pass by Waterford quarterback Jake Mangual and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. Bragaw's kick was the team's 14th point in a 46-second span.
Hatajik scored on a 3-yard run with 7:54 left in the game and Bragaw closed out the scoring by drilling a 39-field goal with 2:18 left.
East Lyme's Travis Franco, who had 41 yards in receptions, 32 yards rushing and helped key the defense from his linebacker spot, was the Palmer Sabilia Award recipient as the team's most valuable player. Senior running back Chase Speller was the Sabilia Award winner for Waterford, rushing for 76 yards on 16 carries.
"We kind of ran out of steam,'' said Waterford coach John Strecker. "We're not a pass-first team. We really wanted to get the ball to Chase and that got harder to do the further we got behind.''
Waterford leads the series 26-22, and is ahead 23-21 in Thanksgiving Day matchups. Waterford won three of the first four games before the series moved to Thanksgiving in 1972 and the teams split Thanksgiving Eve games in 1994 and 1995.
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