H.S. football notebook: NFA receivers are a formidable bunch

East Lyme — File it under the category of "them's fightin' words."

Norwich Free Academy players were none too pleased about something they heard during Friday's livestream of the Waterford/Bacon Academy game: That the Lancers have the best receiving corps in the Eastern Connecticut Conference.

"That's a bold statement," NFA quarterback Jakob Hosko said.

Hosko spent the day throwing 268 yards worth of passes to Max Pierre-Louis, Andrew Cote, Damien Bleau and Nolan Molkenthin. Earlier this season, the same quartet helped injured starter Austin Richards set a school record with nearly 500 passing yards in a win over Glastonbury.

"Coach (Steve) Burris (NFA's offensive coordinator) is really teeing it up for us," Hosko said.

East Lyme coach Rudy Bagos: "NFA's receivers are very good. Get them out in space and anything can happen. You better be able to make that initial tackle, because of you can't, they're gone."

NFA's defense, run over by beefy Shelton the week before, was much better Saturday. That brought a grin to coach Jason Bakoulis, who is a former defensive coordinator.

"All week long we talked about finishing the play," he said, "and not letting the offense finish the play. Tackle. Block destruction."

Joe Klick and Josh Brown had quarterback sacks.

Callender lifts Whalers

With standout running back Jacob Commander having graduated, there was a void in New London's backfield this season. Junior Jaylen Callender did a nice job filling that void in Saturday's 12-7 win over Ledyard.

Callender rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown. He also plays cornerback and helped keep speedy Ledyard receiver Jaden Bickham to three catches.

"He's very good defensively,'' said New London coach Johnny Burns. "On offense, he's always one block away from breaking one. He brings a lot of versatility for his size. He's very strong.''

Junior Keeano Gonzalez rushed for 29 yards and sophomore Josiah Williams ran for 34 yards.

"Sophomore and juniors. It's good to get those guys going,'' said Burns.

Callender doesn't care who the feature back is.

"As long as we win, I don't care who gets the ball,'' said Callender.

The Whalers did have six penalties, including three personal fouls.

"Too many times shooting ourselves in the foot and having to overcome fouls,'' said Burns. "It's just about guys keeping their heads.

"If you say the wrong thing or are clapping in a guy's face ... you have to know how to celebrate in a way that's not going to cost us. You don't want to give a perception of being unsportsmanlike and we've got a team of really great kids.''

New London observed a moment of silence prior to the game for former Ledyard coach Bill Mignault, who died on Tuesday at the age of 90.

Wheeler joins the ECC

Tyler Leach has been playing football since he was 5 years old, including winning a Super Bowl title last fall with Stonington's 14U team.

"Ever since I knew what football was, I've been playing it," Leach said.

That looked to present a problem with Leach, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound offensive lineman, headed into his freshman year at Wheeler this season. Wheeler did not field a football team.

This season, however, Wheeler has formed a cooperative program with Griswold, sending eight players by bus every day to practice to play with the Wolverines. Leach is starting on the line for Griswold/Wheeler, which is 2-1 overall after Friday's 14-7 victory over Stonington.

"I am happy Wheeler finally has a football team," Leach said. "I thought it was going to be one of those things where the coach would favor their own players, but it hasn't been like that. We started out with four (players from Wheeler), then we went to 10, then to eight. ... I didn't expect to be a freshman starting on varsity."

"He's having a good year as a freshman," Griswold/Wheeler coach Gregg Wilcox said. "... Otherwise we don't have enough kids. We're probably down to 36 now, take away the eight Wheeler kids you're down to 28 and by the end of the year you're down to 18 because of attrition.

"We don't have a problem at all (with players from different schools coming together). They're all part of the same team."

Defending Eastern Connecticut Conference Division III champ Griswold/Wheeler topped Stonington just a week after losing starting senior quarterback Andrew Koziol indefinitely to a broken collar bone.

Jaiden Curtin-Quinn, a junior, started at quarterback with sophomore Cameron Gouveia, one of the Wheeler players, as his backup.

"It was a tough week," Wilcox said. "We left everyone where they were (in terms of positions). Just we had to stop everything to get two young quarterbacks caught up."

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