Falcons are tough mudders in 39-6 win over Vikings

Groton — Fitch was going to play Friday night’s scheduled football home game against East Lyme come hell or high water which, by the way, was puddling up on Dorr Field.

“As we showed against New London, we’re not a Saturday team,” Fitch head coach Mike Ellis said while laughing after Friday’s 39-6 swampy win over the Vikings.

Ellis was referencing the team’s 13-8 loss on a beautiful sunny day on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 29.

“When the choice was given to play Saturday, no-no, we’re going to play Friday night, no matter what," Ellis said. "We needed to stay on schedule. The game was 6:30 on a Friday night. We stayed on that schedule.”

It was the first Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I win of the season for Fitch (6-3, 1-2) as it stayed mathematically alive in the CIAC Class L playoff race. The Falcons are ranked 11th out of the 12 teams still in contention for six spots.

The Vikings are 3-5, 1-2.

On a night in which teams across the ECC struggled to score, whether they were playing on turf or grass, Fitch played one of its most complete games of the season as it scored nearly every way possible.

These Falcons are some tough mudders.

Fitch ran most of its triple option offense through quarterback Tyler Nelli and fullback James Deichler.

Nelli ran 28 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Deichler had 14 carries for 66 yards and a score.

“We were just taking short, choppy steps,” Nelli said about keeping his footing on a sloppy field. “Just trying to keep getting leverage, getting low, and keep pushing.”

Fitch scored its first four points (yes, four) on safeties.

East Lyme had a third-and-long from its own 10 when the snap sailed into the end zone. Brandon Hamilton tackled Chris Salemme for a safety to give Fitch a 2-0 lead with 5 minutes, 45 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Vikings had fourth-and-16 from their own 7 on their next drive. Head coach Rudy Bagos opted to take a knee in the end zone as the Falcons went ahead, 4-0, with 1:20 left in the quarter.

East Lyme fumbled on its next possession. The Falcons’ Kennard Tate scooped up the ball, somehow kept his footing, and returned it for a 17-yard touchdown to push his team’s lead to 11-0 with 9:40 left in the first half.

“I don’t even know how I did it,” Tate said. “Lucky move, I guess. Lucky move.”

Salemme threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Franco to get East Lyme on the board with 6:30 left in the second quarter. The conversion pass failed.

Fitch had a third-and-8 from the Vikings’ 42 on its next possession. Nelli broke off a 16-yard run for first down.

“That was the backbreaker,” Bagos said. “We had them in third-and-long.”

Nelli later ran for a 9-yard touchdown on fourth-and-3 as the Falcons surged ahead, 18-6, with 17 seconds left in the half.

A gaggle of Falcons blocked an East Lyme punt early in the second half. Austin Beebe had a 30-yard scoop-and-score to increase Fitch’s lead to 26-6.

Deichler ran for a 9-yard touchdown late in the quarter. Nelli scored on 1-yard run early in the fourth.

“We talked about needing a team game tonight, and you saw that,” Ellis said. “The offense played well. The defense played well. Special teams played well. We executed all phases tonight.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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