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    Thursday, February 02, 2023

    Ledyard shuts out New London

    Ledyard quarterback Jackson Poulton (11) pitches the ball to a teammate against New London’s Denzell Norman (14) during a football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at New London High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London’s Christopher Jones (13) is tackled by Ledyard’s Ben Rusczyk (70) and Myles Strekfuss (22), blocked from view, with Matthew Tebbets (60) watching the action during a football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at New London High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Former New London coach Jim Buonocore, center, accepts applause after he and his former players and coaches posted for photos while on the field to be honored at halftime for his 30-plus years of coaching during the New London/Ledyard football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at New London High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Former New London coach Jim Buonocore looks at a plaque that New London athletic director Phil Orbe, left, presented him with New London Mayor Michael Passero, center, and council member Efrain Dominguez, Jr. while being honored at halftime during the New London/Ledyard football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at New London High School. Buonocore was honored for his 30-plus years of coaching.(Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Ledyard’s James Green (7) stiff-arms New London’s Jaidyn Montes (20) while running the ball across the field during the football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at New London High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London quarterback Johnny Burns III (2) runs the ball and keeps our of reach of Ledyard’s Jaxon Barboza (4) and Myles Strekfuss (22) during a football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at New London High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London — The Ledyard defense has had its share of quality outings this football season but had yet to blank an opponent.

    The Colonels got their shutout against New London on Saturday afternoon, 35-0, in an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II game, but it required some extra toughness.

    The Whalers are quarterbacked by senior Johnny Burns III, who is built like a fullback and not the easiest person in the world to take down.

    “He’s a big guy, you know,” said Ledyard junior Ben Rusczyk, a two-way lineman. “You don’t usually see a quarterback that’s that big or that strong or fast. So it was a bigger challenge.”

    The Colonels (8-1, 4-0) managed to hold Burns to 44 yards on 17 carries as well as 6-of-9 passing for 62 yards. Junior Matthew Tebbets and Rusczyk each had a sack.

    New London (2-7, 0-4) finished with 180 yards and twice managed to get to the Ledyard 6 and 20 yard line on separate possessions.

    The Colonels bent but never broke.

    “They come off the ball low, fast and hard in the run game,” Ledyard head coach Mike Serricchio said about the Whalers. “I told the guys, ‘These dudes can push you back’.

    “We didn’t want them to get as many yards as they did, you know, when you’re trying to build an identity like us as far as physicality and speed. … (but) they came up and made (plays) when it mattered.”

    Sophomore Myles Strekfuss and Jamel Kearse along with Rusczyk all recovered fumbles for the Colonels, too.

    It helped that Ledyard controlled the clock with its running game and generally got its yardage four-or-five yards at a time. The Colonels ran 38 times for 231 yards with only six carries over 8 yards.

    Senior fullback James Green did the bulk of the running for the Colonels as he ran 26 times for 141 yards and two touchdowns. He’s rushed for over 1,600 yards this season.

    Senior Jacob Lenz ran four times for 71 yards and a touchdown for Ledyard while classmate Jackson Poulton scored on a 1-yard run. Poulton also threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to classmate Liam Stahlbush.

    Senior center Logan Rodrigues, tackles Jaden Tetlow (senior) and Ryan Whaley (sophomore) and guards Rusczyk and Tebbets did the grunt work up front.

    “Our motto is, ‘come out fast and hard,” Rusczyk said. “I feel like we did a pretty good job at that.”

    The win also kept the Colonels, who clinched the Division II title a week ago with their 26-20 overtime win over previously unbeaten Windham, alive in the CIAC Class SS playoff race with only their Thanksgiving game day at Fitch left to play. They will clinch their first postseason berth since 2015 with a win.

    • Former New London High School coaching great Jim Buonocore Sr. was honored at halftime with many of his former players in attendance. Buonocore coached the Whalers to four of their five CIAC state championships, the most of any Eastern Connecticut Conference football team.

    n.griffen@theday.com

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