NFA settles in, avoids a trap against Waterford

Waterford — Remember: They don’t become clichés if they’re not eminently true in the first place. And Norwich Free Academy faced a timeless one — the dreaded trap game — Friday night.

Last week: big win over Fitch.

Next week: The Eastern Connecticut Conference game of the year at Killingly.

This week: at struggling Waterford with the unfamiliar rhythms of an odd start time (4:30 p.m.)

And when it was 14-14 early in the second period …

“Our guys decided to settle down,” NFA coach Jason Bakoulis said, after his team did just that. “We had too many things in our head. We talk about no ‘B-C-Ds.’ Blame, complain, defend.”

The Wildcats (5-3) scored 41 unanswered points to eventually earn a 55-21 victory.

Quarterback Elijah Parker ran for two scores and threw touchdown passes to Jahiem Spruill (69 yards), Damien Bleau (22 yards) and Kevin Pomroy (47 yards) as NFA’s pass offense continued to hum.

“NFA is a very good team,” Waterford coach John Strecker said.

Strecker’s Lancers (2-6) played well early, perhaps offering some hope as they finish the season with their biggest rivals: Montville and East Lyme.

Marquis Smith caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Bakken to tie the game at seven before Bakken hit Dan Annibalini for 63 yards, setting up Marcus Lovell’s 1-yard touchdown run.

Suddenly, it was 14-14.

“We did some stuff right,” Strecker said. “But that didn’t continue. I think we are just a little bit — how do I put this? — we sometimes don’t follow through on our schemes. But our guys competed. Stuck with it the whole time.”

Strecker opted for a fake punt inside his 20 with a minute left in the first half. The pass fell incomplete, leading to a late NFA score before halftime.

“We were trying to get back into the game,” he said. “The ball hit our guy at the (first down) marker.”

Bakoulis said, “A lot of credit goes to Waterford. They came out fighting, which is what you’d expect. They made some great plays.”

Now the Wildcats go to Killingly, with at least a chance to derail the Redmen’s hopes of a home game in the state playoffs.

“It’ll be a very close game. Excellent game,” said Strecker, whose team has played both teams. “I think Killingly has the ability to beat them.”

Bakoulis said, “Killingly is the defending state champs. A great program. It’s an opportunity for our guys to be tested at the state level.”

m.dimauro@theday.com

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