Westerly punishes Stonington with ground game in 28-14 win
Westerly — Westerly junior Zack Tuck has great respect for the Stonington High School football team and the long-running rivalry between the two schools.
“They play with the heart of lions,” Tuck said. “Stonington has some athletes and really good guys.”
Tuck is good friends with several Bears, including some that he ran over, through and by on the way to piling up a game-high 234 yards and three touchdowns (36, 2 and 6 yards) playing in his first Thanksgiving Day game as the Bulldogs pulled out a 28-14 win.
Westerly (8-3) never trailed, jumping out to a 14-0 lead about midway through the second quarter, and forced the game’s only two turnovers in the fourth quarter to prevent a Stonington comeback.
“It’s an experience that I’m never going to forget,” Tuck said. “The energy here is amazing. Obviously, we’re rivals and all. Those guys on Stonington, I’m pretty close with a bunch of them. It was just good getting out here playing with everybody.
“It was a great feeling and I’ll remember this for the rest of my life. I’ve still one year left, so I’ll be back next year.”
Stonington (5-5) closed out a successful season with a strong effort but couldn’t generate enough offense, especially on the ground, or come up with enough drive-stopping plays on defense to emerge as the winner in the 161st meeting in the rivalry before approximately 3,200 fans at Sal Augeri Field.
Senior quarterback Dorian White threw two touchdown passes to junior Luke Lowry, covering 36 and 67 yards, to account for the Bears’ scoring.
Lucian Tedeschi, one of Stonington’s best players, played but was limited to mostly defense due to being banged up.
“Our kids played very hard,” Stonington coach A.J. Massengale said. “They kept their composure. They gave a great effort.”
Westerly extended its winning streak on Thanksgiving Day to four straight but trails in the overall series, 74-70, with 17 ties.
Tuck was the star of the game, scampering 36 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead on Westerly’s first drive. Drew Mason’s two-yard run increased the lead to 14-0 with seven minutes left in the first half.
Stonington closed the gap to seven twice, the final time 21-14 early in the fourth quarter when Lowry caught a pass that deflected off a defender’s hands and completed the 67-yard scoring play, but couldn’t catch the Bulldogs. Senior captain Joey Gervasini’s fourth quarter interception sealed the win.
“I thought our kids responded,” Westerly first-year coach Stanley Dunbar said. “Every time Stonington had a big play, we came back and moved the ball and we were able to be successful. The key to the game was us stopping their run. Offensively, we thought we sustained longer drives and had the ball for a long time.”
After complimenting Westerly for playing a great game, Massengale expressed his disappointment and outrage over Bulldogs’ behavior at halftime in the locker room area in the high school.
According to Massengale, multiple Westerly players and an assistant coach stood outside the Stonington locker room door talking trash to the Bears and knocking on the door. He was proud of the composure that his team showed.
“Their football team and at least one coach was at our door messing with our kids,” Massengale said. “I felt like I was the only adult there. This isn’t even sour grapes at all. They played great on the field. But what they did at halftime and some of the nonsense that they showed has no place in high school football. I saw it myself.
“I actually had to go out there in the hallway. … When I saw a coach talking trash, I couldn’t believe it. It’s one of the ugliest things that I’ve ever seen and one of many things that I saw.”
Massengale said that his football team will “never go in that building again if they’re in there. Seriously, print it. I don’t care, because this has to stop.
“Multiple times that we’ve played these guys this stuff has happened and I’m so tired of it ... I’ve been coaching 19 years and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it. It’s disappointing. It will never happen again because we will never allow that kind of situation to happen again. Never.”
Massengale made a point to say that Dunbar was not involved. He has no problem with Dunbar.
When asked about the halftime incident, Dunbar said he wasn’t aware of anything happening.
“I wasn’t in the locker room when that happened,” Dunbar said.
And if it did happen as Massengale detailed?
“That’s unacceptable,” Dunbar said. “At the end of the day, all of our players know these kids and they grew up with these kids and at the end of the game, they’re shaking hands.
“On the field, we’re playing tough. But there’s a respect factor there. That’s not something we stand for here at Westerly. If that is the case, I will address it.”
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