Killingsworth, Ledyard hang on to beat Stonington for first win of the season
Ledyard — Ledyard took the lead, a two-point margin, with 5 minutes, 17 seconds left in the third quarter Friday night on a quarterback sneak by Jacob Sylvia.
And then first-year head coach Clay Killingsworth had to wait for his inaugural victory wearing the dark blue and gold.
"It feels like the last quarter lasted four hours with all the injuries and cramps," Killingsworth said, relieved.
The Colonels won 22-20 for their first victory of the season, stopping Stonington, which got the ball back with 3:52 remaining in the game and put together an 11-play drive with an opportunity for the win.
The Bears finally turned the ball over on downs at the Ledyard 46, however, allowing Sylvia, taking two straight knees, to kill the clock and deliver the victory.
"It's always a great win, no matter if it's close or by a mile," said Ledyard senior James Smith, who scored on a 67-yard touchdown run in the second quarter on the first play from scrimmage following a Stonington touchdown.
"I know for me and for the coaches, it took all 11 guys on the field at all times. It was definitely an all-around win. I know I could have capitalized on some plays and I didn't and guys picked me up."
Stonington took a 20-16 lead in the second quarter on a 70-yard interception return by Josh Curtin, carrying that margin into halftime.
On Stonington's first possession of the second half, however, a bad snap sailed over the head of quarterback Riley Burnside and Ledyard recovered, giving the Colonels the ball at the Bears' 22-yard-line. Ledyard scored in four plays, with Sylvia covering 14 yards on the final two carries of the series.
That was the final margin.
Stonington, which lost quarterback Drew Champagne to a first-half injury, managed just 36 yards offense in the second half. The Bears' best chance to score came after Ledyard fumbled a punt on its own 32-yard-line and Stonington was able to send the offense back out, with a Nate Miller 3-yard gain pushing it to the 29.
Ledyard (1-2 overall, 1-1 in Division II of the Eastern Connecticut Conference) recorded a sack on the next play, however, and Burnside threw two straight incompletions to turn the ball back to the Colonels.
"We've been able to use Riley in different ways," said Stonington coach A.J. Massengale, whose team dropped to 0-3, 0-1. "Drew was injured and Marco (Tedeschi, who also sometimes plays quarterback) didn't play. We were down to one quarterback. It's a cascade because now we're asking (Burnside) to play out of position.
"We had a lot of sophomores and freshmen out there. We had a lot of young kids. We've got to coach 'em up better and I know coaches say that, but we do."
Ledyard was 2-8 last year. Killingsworth, the former offensive coordinator at Norwich Free Academy, was hired in the offeason to replace Jonathan Hernandez, making Killingsworth the fourth coach of the program in four years. Killingsworth had previous head coaching experience at Woodstock Academy.
"'It's not going to come easy, but I know the history here,'" Killingsworth said he told athletic director Jim Buonocore in his interview. "'I think we can turn this program around.' We have kids buying in all the way from the freshmen. From the first time I met 'em, I met the parents and some of the players, I thought, 'They're eager to learn; they're eager to get better.'"
Smith finished with six carries for 75 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 31 yards. Brayden Grim had 16 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown for Ledyard, scoring the Colonels' first touchdown from 16 yards out as they capitalized on Stonington's fumble of the opening kickoff.
Stonington tied it 7-7 on a 6-yard run by Burnside and then took a 14-7 lead with 8:01 remaining in the half on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Champagne to freshman Christian Hudson. Smith's touchdown came on the next play from scrimmage to tie the game once again.
Ledyard took a 16-14 lead on a safety. Stonington reclaimed the lead on Curtin's interception return, but those would be the final points for the Bears.