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Turnovers contribute to Stonington's demise in loss to Bacon

Stonington — With each mistake and missed opportunity, Friday's football game gradually slipped away from Stonington.

Until the Bears ended up on the losing end of a 35-7 score in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II opener.

Just another part of the growth process for a young team.

"We're a better team than the way we played today," Stonington coach A.J. Massengale said. "So we've just got to learn from it and try to get better. We've got a lot of season left to keep improving."

Stonington (0-2, 0-1) struggled to keep up with Bacon Academy (2-0, 1-0), which scored its second straight impressive victory. The Bobcats routed Windham 49-0 in their opener.

Turnovers on the first two possessions of the second half led to Bacon touchdowns, helping the Bobcats turn a 14-7 halftime lead into 28-7 advantage. An interception led to another score for the Bobcats.

"We played a pretty solid first half," Massengale said. "What I said to the kids, I'm not going to sit here and start speculating on all the variables and all the different things that didn't go in our favor. We've got to figure it out and go back and look at it and see where things started to go sideways and work to prevent those things."

Senior running back/defensive back Conor Brown led the Bobcats with two touchdowns — one on offense, one on defense — and also made an interception. Quarterback Justin Kelsey threw for three scores.

The Bobcats contained the Bears, who scored 46 points in last week's loss to Montville, and limited sophomore running back Christian Hudson to just one touchdown and 41 yards rushing after he scored five and gained 272 yards in the opener.

"He's definitely one of their top players," Bacon coach Dave Mason said. "We scouted him big-time. ... Our defense did what they were supposed to do and took away those big plays."

There were two significant turning points in the game, with the first happening in the second quarter.

After allowing a 58-yard touchdown pass from Kelsey to senior Aidan Gallagher on the game's third play, Stonington appeared to stabilize the game.

Taking advantage of a field position set up by a five-yard punt, Hudson raced 21 yards for a score on the drive's fourth play to tie the score.

Bacon Academy answered on its first drive of the second quarter on Brown's 12-yard touchdown reception for a 14-7 edge.

But missed opportunities prevented the Bears from tying the score before halftime. They drove to the Bacon 17 but failed to convert on fourth down and six.

Hudson's fumble recovery handed the ball back to Stonington, which moved to the Bacon 19. But the next four plays produced a penalty and a combined minus six yards before the second quarter ended.

"That wasn't good, not being able to capitalize," Massengale said.

Bacon's stingy defense finished off Stonington.

Massengale gambled by going for it on fourth down in his own territory on the first two drives of the second half. Both times the Bears turned the ball over on botched exchanges in the back field.

First, Brown scooped up a fumble and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown and then Ethan Foley recovered another fumble, eventually leading to David Talbot's 2-yard scoring plunge.

"Those were huge and big momentum changers," Mason said.

It was worth a try, Massengale said of the fourth down attempts.

"We were going to have to make something happen and be on the offensive and take some chances with some things," Massengale said. "I made that decision. Sometimes those work and sometimes they don't. They didn't. It comes down with execution."

g.keefe@theday.com

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