Unbeaten record, league title, playoff berth for TRC
Groton – Sure, the most historical significance of this season to date for Thames River happened before Wednesday night, having already earned the first state high school football playoff berth in program history.
Oh, but there was more to accomplish on the newly turfed lawn at Grasso Tech, which is part of the tri-operative with Norwich Tech and St. Bernard. More than even how a victory would give the Crusaders no worse than a share of the Constitution State Conference championship.
Nobody on the Thames River sideline could forget what befell them a year ago this night, when Quinebaug Valley not only derailed their playoff hopes, but did so rather declaratively, 57-13.
So this? This was revenge, a dish the Crusaders served in the cold.
Thames River 43, Quinebaug Valley 0.
“This feels amazing,” reigning Day All Area Player of the Year and Thames River senior Seth Cunningham said. “Last year after coming so close, we couldn’t get it done. Coming into this game, we were all thinking about last year. What happened to us was really tragic.”
There was even more reason to be joyous for the Crusaders, who learned they earned a home game in next week’s Class MM quarterfinals after all. Newington upset Wethersfield, meaning Thames River will be no worse than the No. 4 seed and play at home.
Thames River (10-0) will learn of its quarterfinal opponent after Thursday’s results. Before the game, the Crusaders were unlikely to play at home because the number of teams with losing records on their schedule (eight of the 10) earned them fewer bonus points than other teams in the division.
Newington was a three-win team playing at 8-win Wethersfield and pulled the upset nonetheless.
“I’ve got goosebumps,” Thames River coach Craig Sylvester said, perhaps even able to add “frostbite” as well as his euphoric players dumped the water bucket on him after the game.
Cunningham ran for 142 yards and three touchdowns on runs of 3, 8 and 42 yards. Quarterback Justin Outlow ran for 120 yards, a 32-yard touchdown and threw scoring passes to Ryan Outlow of 8 and 54 yards.
And now they get ready for the first playoff game in program history. A technical school cooperative has never won a state playoff game.
“I like being the underdog,” Cunningham said. “If people want to take us lightly, that’s fine. We’ll go out and play our game.”