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Bacon Academy outduels Fitch in quarterback-centric 7-on-7 format

Colchester — Before he knew whether there would be a high school football season of any sort, Fitch High School quarterback Josh Letellier went about making himself better.

He threw to his brother Luke, a recent graduate of Trinity College, where he was a wide receiver. He worked out with Tim Boyle, the former Xavier High School standout who is now the backup quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.

"Basically it was just timing, the timing of everything," Letellier said of his biggest area of improvement, having previously been charged with quarterbacking a run-based Falcons offense but taking it upon himself to become a more proficient passer, too.

Bacon Academy's Justin Kelsey, meanwhile, came into the season as the incumbent quarterback in what was mainly a spread offense. He was used to throwing, if perhaps not this much.

Then this fall, quarterbacks for all Eastern Connecticut Conference teams became gunslingers.

With the cancellation of 11-on-11 tackle football by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the state's governing body for high school sports, the ECC adopted a 7-on-7 format, akin to a passing league.

Teams may only throw the ball; no running plays are allowed. If a quarterback takes more than four seconds to throw, it's considered a sack. Things move fast.

"I love it," Letellier said. "It's fun. We have a couple plays run from under center still, but we're in the shotgun (formation) so much. I love throwing the ball. We have all good receivers with good hands."

Bacon topped Fitch in Saturday's 7-on-7 matchup, which was combined with linemen's activitites, 42-35.

Kelsey threw five touchdown passes, three to Terrance Gignac — both of them celebrating Senior Day — including the game-winner from 4 yards out with 2 minutes, 37 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The freshman and junior varsity teams played the fourth quarter with no scoring, while an additional entertaining fifth quarter was added between the linemen.

Kelsey also threw TD passes to Quinn Clark and Sean Preston and added a pair of interceptions on defense.

"It's teaching me better decision-making," said Kelsey of the 7-on-7 game. "The first game (of the season) I got picked and I don't think I've thrown (an interception) since then. I'm just making good decisions."

"Our offense has been pretty consistent," Bacon coach Mark Farnsworth said. "We have some pretty good athletes. For (Kelsey), we're teaching him how to read defenses, how to read coverages. Those are things you don't usually spend this much time on. If we're able to go in the spring (the CIAC is allowing for a shortened season beginning in February), we're going to have to catch up with the running game."

Letellier threw three touchdown passes, all to Noah Charron, including a 42-yarder to tie the score at 35-35 beginning the third quarter.

The Falcons led 21-7 early after a 15-yard touchdown pass from Letellier to Charron plus wins by the linemen in a heavy bag carry and in a pursuit drill. The score was 28-28 at halftime when Bacon's linemen won a figure eight drill to give the Bobcats a 35-28 edge.

Fitch did not have the opportunity to practice this week, as the high school went to all-remote learning due to a COVID-19 case in town.

"He's done a great job," Fitch coach Mike Ellis said of Letellier's progress. "The thing I like about what he's done is his timing. We're running a stop route and he's delivering it before the receiver makes the break and the receivers are catching it."

Letellier has practiced rolling out to either side and has taken several shots deep downfield. He said his brother gave him advice from the perspective of a college receiver, while Boyle told him not to worry so much about throwing a perfect spiral every time but getting the ball where it needs to go.

"He told me, 'There's no pictures in the stat book,'" Letellier said.

"If we do (play in the spring), this has been very beneficial for us," Ellis said.

The fifth quarter Saturday among the linemen didn't count toward the final score but served as a celebration for the players who have been at practice every day without as much of a chance to contribute to the 7-on-7 games.

Fitch's Brian Toussaint intercepted a pass during the linemen's series and danced off the field, setting off a raucous celebration on the Fitch sideline. Bacon's Aiden Holt followed with an interception that drew an equal amount of pandemonium on the opposing sideline.

"It's an opportunity for these guys to have fun," Farnsworth said. "To see them celebrate like that ... they're putting in hours and hours and hours in practice. I give the kids a lot of credit. We have not lost a lot of kids. They keep coming day in and day out. They're putting in a lot of work and it's taking a long time to yield the results."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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