East Lyme, once 1-4, finishes .500 with win over Waterford

Waterford — Surely, there were times when the record was 1-4 in October when this night didn't feel possible. Maybe that's why Rudy Bagos reminded his kids how proud they should be several times Wednesday night, standing on the frozen lawn of his school's blood rival.

And while it wasn't easy — downright scary at times for East Lyme High School — the Vikings made it two straight over Waterford with a 21-14 victory, finishing the season at 5-5.

Maybe 5-5 didn't look so appealing in August. But it sure does now, especially after a losing season was almost reality.

"These kids could have packed it in," Bagos said. "And they didn't. They should be very proud of themselves."

Andrew Haase, who scored two touchdowns (including a biggie with 2:02 remaining) was named East Lyme's Most Valuable Player in the game. Waterford's Dan Annabilini, who caught a 70-yard touchdown pass immediately after Haase's score, won the honor for the Lancers (3-7).

Bagos admitted he exhaled after Haase's score, a 4-yard run that came after the East Lyme defense protected a 14-7 lead in the fourth quarter, thwarting two Waterford possessions.

"After Andrew scored, I thought 'thank God,'" Bagos said. "I see Waterford throw the screen (to Annabilini) and I figured we'd be OK. It was only a screen. Then I look up and go 'Where did all of our guys go?'"

They watched Annabilini outrun everyone else, to bring the Lancers within seven.

It was just as Waterford had done earlier. Trailing 14-0, Annabilini caught a 41-yard pass that set up Marquis Smith's 27-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Bakken to make it 14-7.

Marcus Lovell's interception on East Lyme's next possession gave Waterford the ball in East Lyme territory, but the Lancers stalled. More missed opportunities.

"We had guys open all night," Waterford coach John Strecker said. "Hey, it's the Thanksgiving game and they're all jacked up. It was the coldest weather we had played in. Some of our guys who were money all year had tough nights. It happens."

The Lancers, with the ball at their 13, trailed 7-0 with 1:30 left in the first half. Strecker opted not to run out the clock, but to attempt a two-minute drill. The Vikings turned an interception into Spencer Duthrie's 7-yard touchdown catch from Chris Salemme with 8.7 seconds left in the half. It gave East Lyme a 14-0 lead.

"We had guys running open," Strecker said. "I felt like we had just as good of a chance to score there. Look what happened late in the first of the Montville game."

Strecker alluded to Bakken's touchdown pass to Niko Thibeault on the last play of the half two weeks ago.

Waterford's defense, which had allowed 308 points in nine games, held the Vikings and their impressive 257-point offense to 21.

"It's the best our defense has played all year," Strecker said. "And we gave them a short field the whole first half."

m.dimauro@theday.com

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