H.S. football notes: It’s the great old days again in Stonington
It’s the old days again in Stonington — the great old days in this case — where the vibes of the football team’s 3-0 start run like a current back 21 years, the last time the Bears began a season 3-0.
The year was 2002, the program a year removed from a playoff berth and a 9-1 season, its own renaissance from 10 years before, when Bob Mitchell led the program to the 1991 state title.
“What I remember most is the excitement that it built in the school,” Ledyard assistant principal/athletic director Jim Buonocore was saying recently, recalling his days as Stonington’s coach.
“I’ll never forget it. It was the first time in a while the program had success. It was all so innocent. That’s what made it more enjoyable.”
Stonington won division titles within the Eastern Connecticut Conference in 2001 and 2002 and made the state playoffs in both years. It wasn’t simply a soccer school any longer.
“For the first time in a while, there were expectations around Stonington football,” Buonocore said. “It was a great thing. Once we won some games in 2001, things changed a little for 2002. I talk to a lot of those guys — Chris Grady, Blake Jensen, Andrew Caron, Maurice McClellan, Colin Clancy, Justin Clachrie — to this day. We still laugh about all the fun on the bus rides.”
Buonocore remembered a day in 2001 when the Bears played Montville for the division title. He opened the doors from the auxiliary gym where the Bears made last minute preparations and saw the bleachers full. For the first time in years. He remembers becoming emotional.
“I thought, ‘we’ve made it.’” Buonocore said. “Bleachers full. Everyone had empty milk jugs with rocks in them making noise. The fire engines were there blaring their horns. I told the kids, ‘this is what it’s all about.’”
The Bears of 2023 seek their first 4-0 start since 2001 at home Friday against East Lyme. Junior Patrick McGugan has been among the league’s best players, scoring three touchdowns in last week’s 34-33 win at Waterford.
The difference in the game turned out to be junior Finn Eck’s blocked extra point. Jayden Carter passed for 160 yards, Cole Phelan had 75 receiving yards and Ethan Mahoney rushed for 140 on 22 carries.
“To see this year’s team having so much success,” Buonocore said, “I hope they’re experiencing a lot of the same things we did.”
This and that
Senior Malachi Harris ran for three touchdowns in East Lyme’s 28-14 win over Avon. The Vikings have rebounded nicely with a pair of wins, following a week one loss to Northwest United of the Connecticut Technical Conference. … There’s another Massengale at Stonington: Maddox Massengale, a junior, rushed for 70 yards on nine carries last week. He is the son of coach A.J. Massengale and brother of recently graduated Ben Massengale, who played football and lacrosse for the Bears. … Killingly senior Soren Rief ran for 310 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-12 win at Windham. It was Killingly’s first win of the season, following losses to Masuk and Notre Dame of West Haven. … Not one team from the ECC even received a vote in the latest GameTimeCT media poll. … following this weekend’s action, the entire ECC will be idle on. Oct. 6-7 during its bye week. The only local game will be a CTC game between Thames River and Platt Tech on Friday, Oct 6, at Grasso Tech (6 p.m.) ... GameDay will stream Waterford at Fitch Friday at 6.
New London at Weaver, 6 p.m.
ATI at Thames River, 6 p.m.
Waterford at Fitch, 6 p.m.
East Lyme at Stonington, 6:30 p.m.
NFA at Killingly, 6:30 p.m.
Valley/Old Lyme at Stafford/EW/Somers, 6:30 p.m.
Ledyard at Windham, 7 p.m.
Montville at Woodstock, 11 a.m.
Griswold/Wheeler at Bacon Academy, noon
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