Bears can't overcome adversity in 14-7 loss to Wolverines
Griswold — Deep down, Stonington High School football coach A.J. Massengale knows his team needs to do better, be able to overcome adversity more readily, to win these games.
That's what he told the Bears in the huddle following Friday afternoon's 14-7 loss to Griswold/Wheeler, dropping Stonington to 0-4.
Then again, some of the adversity was unduly harsh. The Bears lost leading rusher Christian Hudson, a sophomore, to injury at practice earlier in the week. Hudson, who is "banged up," according to Massengale's explanation, rushed for 379 yards and six touchdowns in the first three weeks of the season, including a five-touchdown performance in Week 1.
There's also a matter of the Bears' youthful lineup. Several of the players Massengale is putting on the field are 14 and 15 years old.
"Good things are going to happen for this team. I'm certain of it," Massengale said. "I told them, 'I've been coaching here longer than most of you have been alive. We have to navigate it to get you there.' We're going to continue to get better. We have stuff we're working on."
Griswold (2-1) scored 14 unanswered points to earn the win behind junior quarterback Jaiden Curtin-Quinn, who replaced injured three-year starter Andrew Koziol. Koziol suffered a broken collar bone in last week's 27-13 loss to Bacon Academy.
Stonington led 7-0 with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first quarter on a 44-yard burst up the middle from senior Josh Curtin, with Curtin picking up speed the closer he got to the end zone.
Then Stonington, as if not having Hudson wasn't enough, hit a few more stumbling blocks.
Griswold scored on a 9-yard run by Anthony Franklin with 4:52 remaining in the second quarter. Stonington appeared to block the extra point, but the Bears were called for an unusual roughing the holder penalty and Griswold got the ball at the 2-yard line, affording the Wolverines the opportunity to go for the two-point conversion.
Logan Chappell ran in the conversion for an 8-7 Griswold lead.
And that was before Stonington had two potential touchdowns negated.
With time running out in the half, Griswold went for it on fourth-and-1 from its own 27-yard line and came up short, turning the ball over to the Bears on downs with 13.3 seconds remaining.
That allowed Stonington three shots at the end zone, but a pass from Drew Champagne to Curtin, which Curtin caught in the corner of the end zone, was disallowed due to Curtin having stepped out of bounds before he came back to make the diving catch.
Griswold scored on its first possession of the second half, a 17-yard run by Chris Thibidou, to make it 14-7.
Stonington had an impressive defensive showing with Griswold driving the ball down to the Bears 14-yard-line. Luke Castanzo sacked the Griswold quarterback back to the 25 on second down and two plays later Mahmoud Salha intercepted Curtin-Quinn and returned it 78 yards for another apparent touchdown only to have it called back due to a blind side block away from the play.
Stonington got the interception, but was backed up to its own 9-yard-line, with Sam Inthasit eventually punting from the back of his own end zone and the Bears never reached midfield again.
"Andrew'll be back at some point," Griswold coach Gregg Wilcox said of preparing his team for this week's game after the loss of Koziol. "The bus keeps going. We have a good bunch of skill players who deserve to do as much as we can. ... We made a couple adjustments at halftime and they pretty much did the rest."
Curtin had 21 carries for 92 yards for Stonington.