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    Thursday, April 18, 2024

    Fitch’s response to adversity? Just ‘Fine’ as Falcons rally to spoil NFA’s Homecoming, 34-28

    Fitch’s Adonis Fine (12) breaks free for a big gain during the Falcons’ 34-28 ECC Division I football victory over NFA on Saturday in Norwich. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Fitch’s T.J. Miller (2) reaches out to make a catch over NFA’s Makiye Howard (2) that turned into a 60-yard scoring play during the Falcons’ 34-28 ECC Division I football win over NFA on Saturday in Norwich. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    NFA’s Gage Hinkley (6) breaks free for one of his three touchdowns during Saturday’s 34-28 loss to Fitch in an ECC Division I football game in Norwich. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Norwich — Rarely has one player provided a better microcosm for The Bigger Picture than Fitch senior Adonis Fine did Saturday afternoon, a one-man illustration of getting knocked down violently, but responding the best way possible: on the scoreboard.

    And so it was the middle of the third period on Homecoming Day at Norwich Free Academy before more than 1,800 fans when Fine had just completed a sizable gain and was fully out of bounds when an opponent shoved him into a brick wall in front of the bleachers. Fifteen-yard penalty.

    It was here that both Fine and his teammates — the same teammates assigned to rally from a 21-6 halftime deficit — could have done their talking with their voices or even fists. Instead …

    Fine later threw an option pass for a touchdown and the Falcons came from 15 down to defeat NFA, 34-28.

    “Let them get the penalty. Don't reciprocate. We reciprocate on the scoreboard,” Fitch coach Mike Ellis said. “That's what we want to do. So we're starting to see some smarter play. Not quite all there yet, but we're starting to get there.”

    Fine returned a punt 48 yards for a touchdown to begin the second-half rally for the Falcons, who are 4-1 overall and 2-0 atop Division I of the Eastern Connecticut Conference. But it was the shove out of bounds that fully awakened Fine and his teammates.

    “I'm not gonna lie,” Fine said. “I had so much adrenaline going on that one. I hit the wall and I was like … ‘I just hit a wall.’”

    Fine’s run set up Ben Perry’s short touchdown run, bringing Fitch to within 21-20. NFA’s second turnover in as many possessions later allowed Fine to throw the option pass to Calvin McCoy, covering 17 yards.

    “To be honest, I was kind of nervous,” Fine said. “But I knew we could do it. I trust Calvin a lot. So I just threw it up in the air with a prayer and he caught it.”

    Fitch thought it had taken a two-score lead early in the fourth period. Perry appeared to have scored from the 1-yard line — some of the officials signaled touchdown — but after an officials’ meeting, Perry’s knee was ruled down before the end zone. Fitch never scored.

    But its defense, which forced three second-half turnovers, stood strong, allowing Porter Carter’s 40-yard touchdown run with 5:27 left.

    NFA (0-5, 0-2) cut it to 34-28, but the Falcons used tough third-down runs from Perry and Devin Cook to run out the clock. That possession was the best illustration of how Fitch went from being blown off the line of scrimmage to later owning it.

    “When you take a look at the first half, and we saw it at halftime, our line was playing too high,” Ellis said, alluding to their pad levels. “They're trying to look (up) and getting blown off the ball. Play low, get underneath them, drive, come down the line of scrimmage and all of a sudden when you start doing that, things happen and they work well.”

    NFA’s 21-6 lead came thanks to three touchdown runs from Gage Hinkley (46, 4 and 60 yards). Fitch responded with Perry’s 60-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Miller.

    m.dimauro@theday.com

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