New London blanks Stonington 19-0 in the rain
Stonington — After a scoreless first half on Friday night, the New London football team made a decision.
Jacob Commander, who had spurred the Whalers’ defense, saw his role increase on offense in the second half and with it came a 19-0 win over Stonington in a steady rain.
“We wanted to play him less today,’’ said New London coach Johnny Burns. “The scoreless first half didn’t help us.’’
Commander, a senior linebacker and running back, played quarterback in last week’s 25-10 win over Ledyard with starter Owen George nursing an arm injury. The plan was to limit his plays on Friday.
With George still out, New London (5-3) started with Frankie Pratts at quarterback with Geremiah Ballinger running the ball.
Then the second half started with Commander at quarterback. He made his presence felt immediately.
Stonington (1-8) started the second half with an unsuccessful onsides kick. Four plays later Commander scored on a 5-yard run and, after a failed conversion run, the Whalers led 6-0.
Commander gained 35 yards on three carries and Ballinger ran for 15 on the other play.
“The package where (Commander) comes in gives the defense two running backs to worry about on each play,’’ said Burns.
“We have a lot of confidence in the packages that we play him in,’’ said Burns. “So we’re just trying to build confidence by using a couple other packages that don’t rely on him as much.’’
New London recovered a fumble on the rain-slicked field early in the fourth quarter and turned it into its second score. Commander ran 11 yards on the first play then Ballinger broke loose down the left sideline for a 47-yard touchdown run. The conversion pass failed, but New London had a 12-0 lead with 7:57 left in the game.
And the Whalers wrapped it up on their next possession when Commander lofted a pass that Zehki Burgis caught and took in for a 45-yard TD reception with 4:29 left. Edwin Rivera’s extra point made it 19-0.
New London almost scored again when Erick McNeil picked off a Drew Champagne pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown with 1:40 left. The interception stood, but a blindside hit for New London negated the return.
Commander, who fumbled on his only carry in the first half, finished with 71 yards on nine carries. Ballinger, who had a 47-yard run in the second half, had 114 yards on 10 carries.
Fullback Nate Miller led Stonington with 105 yards rushing on 23 carries. Stonington closes out its season with its annual Thanksgiving Day game against Westerly.
New London plays at unbeaten Middletown (8-0) next Thursday and hosts NFA on Thanksgiving Day. New London needs to win both games and would still some help to make the Class L playoffs.
“You never know,’’ said Burns. “Mathematics … something happens over here, something happens over there. You never know. But we have two very tough opponents.’’
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