STONINGTON — Stonington High tuned up for the Thanksgiving Day football game with rival Westerly by downing the Thames River co-op, 49-6, on Thursday night at Palmer Field.
By the middle of the second quarter, it was clear the game was a mismatch.
Stonington (3-6), which had turned the ball over 13 times in two previous losses, was looking for a better performance this week, and that’s what it got.
“This week in practice we were working on ourselves,” Stonington coach A.J. Massengale said. “We had so many things that we need to be more consistent at. That’s what we focused on tonight — cleaning things up.”
Stonington sophomore Josh Curtin scored three touchdowns, including a pair of kickoff returns. His first return covered 77 yards and came early in the first quarter.
His second one covered 82 yards and came on the first play of the second half. It gave the Bears a 42-6 lead and ensured the remainder of the game would be played with running time.
Curtin also had a 63-yard scoring run with about three minutes left in the first half.
Stonington linebacker Travis Pacheco was active throughout the game, with several tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He also batted down a pass.
“We just wanted to get a win on Senior Night, get ready for Thanksgiving and come out with a win,” he said.
So, are the Bears ready for Thanksgiving?
“I think so. We just have to prepare more,” Pacheco said. “Defense has been improving. We are not on our game yet, but we will get there. I know we will. It’s going to be a good game.”
Stonington’s rugged linebacker/fullback, Nate Miller, scored a pair of touchdowns on runs of 45 and 56 yards. For the second straight game the Bears abandoned their double-wing offense and instead lined up in a spread formation.
But they found a way to run the ball.
“Our offensive line has been blocking their butt off,” Miller said. “We worked this new offense this week and it has worked out. We can spread it out and run or pass out of it. It keeps defenses on their toes.”
It didn’t hurt the Bears any that Miller probably ran through a half-dozen tackles on the night.
Junior Riley Burnside also had a good game for the Bears, returning an interception 36 yards for a score and racing to the end zone on a 56-yard scoring run for the final TD of the night with 3:33 left in the third quarter.
At times in the second half, the Bears had difficulty finding a way to keep the score in check.
They either ran out of bounds or took a knee in the midst of punt returns when it became apparent the play might go for long yards.
Thames River is comprised of players from Norwich Tech, Grasso Tech and St. Bernard and plays in the first-year Connecticut Technical Conference, which is a tech-only league. The Crusaders dropped to 4-5 with the loss.
“I’m happy a lot of kids got to play,” Massengale said. “A lot of young kids that have been playing throughout the year were able to have a little more success. It was another opportunity to play and improve.”