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NFA topples Fitch 32-21 to clinch at least a share of ECC D-I title

Norwich — Brutal would be one way to describe Norwich Free Academy's football schedule to date. Really brutal would be another.

And while there will be no postseason in 2018 for the Wildcats, they accomplished something Friday night that will at least raise a banner.

NFA's 32-21 win over Fitch allowed the Wildcats to clinch no worse than a tie for the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I title. NFA (4-3, 2-0) is the lone remaining unbeaten team in the division and can clinch the title outright with a win over New London on Thanksgiving Day.

"From Day 1 of the season, the first goal you set is to win the first game," NFA coach Jason Bakoulis said. "Then eventually, you start talking about your division and the league. It's something that's important to us. You've got to capitalize on every chance to be a champion."

Fitch (4-3, 0-2) is unlikely now to make a repeat trip to the postseason.

NFA quarterback Elijah Parker either found receivers yawningly open most of the night or watched his guys win jump balls, contributing to his 247-yard passing night. He threw touchdowns to Nolan Molkenthin, Max Pierre-Louis, Kevin Pomroy and Damien Bleau, also helping offset his three interceptions.

"I thought NFA's offensive line did a really good job giving the quarterback time to throw, which allowed him to hit open receivers," Fitch coach Mike Ellis said. "And his guys were also winning jump balls, so all the credit goes to them."

Sean Preston, who scored NFA's lone rushing touchdown, added 123 rushing yards.

Fitch trailed 32-7 in the fourth quarter before a pair of late scores made it close, highlighted by senior Brandon Hamilton's return of a blocked punt for a score. Fitch trailed 12-0 early before quarterback Tyler Nelli threw a touchdown pass to Joe Vignato making it 12-7.

This was NFA's last home game. The Wildcats can help spoil Killingly's postseason hopes in two weeks and also wrap up the division title by themselves later in November.

"There's a beast inside of this program," Bakoulis said, after having watched his team lose to Windsor, Newtown and Fairfield Prep — quality teams — this season. "It's the job of the coaches here to unleash that beast. In those losses we've had, there have been a lot of missed opportunities. But we've got some season left."

m.dimauro@theday.com

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