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    Thursday, February 02, 2023

    New London bounces back in big way with win over Bears

    New London’s Antonio Carmona (27) strips the ball from Stonington’s Josiah Blackman (4) during the first half of the Whalers’ 34-14 win on Friday night in New London. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    New London’s Da’Shaun Phillips (14) catches a touchdown in front of Stonington’s Noah Christina (25) in ECC football action Friday, September 23, 2022 at Cannamela Field. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Stonington’s Ben Massengale (2) breaks through the line to block the punt of New London’s Christopher Jones (13) during ECC football action Friday, September 23, 2022 at Cannamela Field. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    New London’s Tyree Barnes (10) stretches over the goal line for a two point conversion as Stonington’s Jack Scahill (8) trees to stop him during ECC football action Friday, September 23, 2022 at Cannamela Field. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    New London — When New London High School last left the football field a week ago, it felt the sting of a 41-point loss to Fitch and an 0-2 record.

    There were none of the remnants of that loss Friday night in New London’s 34-14 victory over Stonington.

    “One of the things we acknowledged was that 2-0 doesn’t guarantee you your dream season and 0-2 doesn’t steal it away,” New London coach Johnny Burns said after leaving a jubilant Whalers huddle following the game.

    “It’s two games. In both of those games we’re learning a lot about ourselves, be it guys who are new to varsity, be it just young guys that we need to play and pieces of the team still coming together, the coaching staff just continuing to work and adjust. We had to let it be two games and make it all about Game 3.”

    New London showed its resilience against Stonington (0-3) on offense — the Whalers used a next-man-up approach at running back — and with a goal line stand on defense in the closing moments of the first half after a Stonington blocked punt gave the Bears prime field position.

    New London capitalized on a Stonington fumble on the first play from scrimmage to score on a 1-yard run by Johnny Burns III, the coach’s son. Stonington came back to take a 7-6 lead with 4 minutes, 29 seconds to play in the first quarter on a 6-yard run by Will French and the extra point by Ethan Mahoney.

    With Burns, the running back, injured on New London’s next series, the Whalers then turned to the combination of senior Marvelt Fleurijeune and sophomore Christopher Jones out of the backfield.

    Beginning at the 10:39 mark of the second quarter, New London launched a 68-yard drive, with an 8-yard run by Fleurijeune giving the Whalers a first down at the Stonington 11-yard line.

    A holding penalty on the next play placed the ball at the 14, where quarterback Christian Irizarry first hit Da’Shaun Phillips for a touchdown and then Tyree Barnes for a two-point conversion to make it 14-7 in New London’s favor.

    With 4:10 to play in the half, Stonington’s Ben Massengale blocked a Whalers’ punt, giving the Bears the ball at 26-yard line and a chance to tie the game going into halftime.

    Stonington got a first down at the 14-yard-line, when New London’s Kyle Parkes made a key hit in the backfield to stop a Bears’ running play. Stonington got the benefit of a pass interference call to get to the 8, but that’s where it stalled, with quarterback Jayden Carter’s pass intended for Jack Scahill sailing wide on fourth-and-4.

    The teams traded possessions to start the second half before New London had another injury, this time to Fleurijeune, momentarily leaving Jones, the sophomore, as the Whalers’ featured back.

    Jones took advantage, covering 26 yards in two plays, capped by a 5-yard touchdown with 3:13 to play in the third quarter to make it 20-7.

    With Stonington then feeling the pressure to pass the ball, despite seeing French carry 18 times for 110 yards in the first half, the Bears went three-and-out on their next two series, both times resulting in New London touchdowns.

    Both Whalers’ touchdowns came from Jones, the first from 7 yards out and the second from 24 yards on a third-and-9 that made it 34-7.

    “We just went to work,” coach Johnny Burns said. “A lot of kudos goes to our players. They’ve got really great character and personalities themselves.

    “It’s kind of kind of like all those guys, they’re part of the original game plan but when guys go down and the game plan has to shift, well now you may not just be part of the game plan, you might be THE game plan. That might be how we got to go through the night.”


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