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    Sunday, March 03, 2024

    Windham moves atop ECC Division II with win over Stonington

    Windham — On a night when they were playing an undefeated team, when their ailing head coach (Randall Prose, illness) missed the game and when they allowed a killer touchdown late in the first half …

    The Whips of Windham High did what they’ve been doing for years now: They won anyway.

    And on this night, they played themselves to the top of the Eastern Connecticut Conference’s Division II standings and atop the Class SS playoff race.

    Windham 20, Stonington 13.

    “People talk about what we lost,” assistant coach Francisco Cruz said, alluding to last year’s senior class, “but they never talk about what we still have.”

    That would be a stout defense led by junior linebacker Malachi Fowler, whose third-period interception, one of three turnovers Windham forced in the second half, changed the game.

    Stonington (6-1, 4-1) had stopped Windham twice early in the period and was driving, looking to add to its 13-12 lead. Fowler’s interception set up a 12-play, 57-yard touchdown drive, capped by Jaycee Diaz’s 4-yard run and Francisco Alvarado’s two-point conversion pass to Darien Jenkins.

    Windham (6-0, 5-0) held Stonington to 29 yards in the second half and forced three turnovers.

    “We have a bunch of dogs,” Cruz said. “That’s our identity. Our identity is our defense. A bunch of hard-nosed kids.”

    Stonington failed to convert a fake punt with 6:05 left and then fumbled on its final possession.

    “It’s tough to overcome the turnovers,” Stonington coach A.J. Massengale said. “That’s on all of us. This isn’t on the kids. We’ve got to do a better job. The Windham kids played great.”

    Justus Black led the Whips with 128 rushing yards, highlighted by a 19-yard touchdown run in the first half.

    Stonington quarterback Jayden Carter (10-for-21, 143 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions) hit Ethan Mahoney with a 9-yard touchdown pass late in the first period and later connected with Patrick McGugan from 40 yards away with 15 seconds left in the first half.

    Charlie Worsdale picked off a pass early in the third period for the Bears, but Stonington turned it over to Windham on the next possession.

    Stonington will stay in the middle of the Class S playoff race, but faces three must wins to end the season, beginning with next week’s game at home versus one-loss Griswold/Wheeler, also a contender in Class S.

    m.dimauro@theday.com

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