GROTON — Up the gut of Stonington High’s defense.
The Fitch Falcons got to the edge in Friday night’s football game for sure, but they did most of the damage running up the middle and then breaking the run left or right.
“We didn’t do a good job with the fundamentals today — tackling, and just football, you know? We have to work harder at tackling, obviously,” Stonington coach A.J. Massengale said after a 34-20 loss in a game that pitted teams from different ECC divisions.
“As a coaching staff we have to make that that’s more of a point of emphasis because it’s obvious we’re just not doing a good job with it.”
Stonington scored first on a 46-yard pass from quarterback Divante White to fullback Harry Calmar on the third play of the Bears’ second series of the game.
White rolled a little to his left to escape pressure, then led Calmar who was breaking into the clear going right to left. Calmar caught the ball inside the 10-yard line and went in standing.
It would be the Bears’ only lead as for the most part it was a frustrating night for the offense.
Stonington reached the Falcons’ 4-yard line on the first possession of the game, aided by a 27-yard run by Zach Poirier on the first play.
But White was sacked for a 9-yard loss on third-and-three from the 4-yard line and the Bears surrendered the ball on downs when White’s pass to Calmar was well-defended by John Moscol.
“We did not do a good job with our (offensive) execution today,” Massengale said. “It’s a lot of things. It’s not one thing. We just weren’t sharp and we had a couple of times when we needed to sub guys in we just didn’t do a good job with it. It’s not anything specfic. We have got a lot to work on.”
Fitch tied the score 7-7 on a 3-yard run by Moscol with 4:42 to go in the first quarter and took a 14-7 lead on a 9-yard up-the-middle scoring run by Moscol with 10:23 left in the half.
Stonington tied the score at 14 on an 11-yard scoring run by Poirier. Poirier ran into his own man as they headed in opposite directions in the backfield, but still scored. He made a quick, sharp cut to his right to find an alley to the end zone.
The Falcons (1-1) went 78 yards on the ensuing possession to reclaim the lead.The drive took 13 plays and ended when quarterback Robert Duncan sneaked over from 1-yard out.
Stonington threatened to score again before the half ended, but a long pass to Calmar was first ruled a trap, then ruled a catch, and then ruled a trap again. The play would have given the Bears’ the ball deep in Falcon territory.
Fitch scored on the fifth play of the second half when Xavier Crawford scored on a 46-yard run on a crisscross. Crawford went up the middle for good yardage, then broke the play to the left side. Matt Briggs tried to cut off Crawford downfield, but was unable to do so.
The Bears answered with a 70-yard kickoff return touchdown by Calmar on which he dodged a tackler near the Stonington bench and made another nice move further down field.
Calmar would leave the game four plays later. Massengale said it was a thigh cramping issue that forced Calmar out of service for the remainder of the contest.
Fitch made it 34-20 on Terrell Scholle’s 56-yard run that hit pay dirt with 53.2 seconds to go in the third quarter.
Scholle began his run up the middle, found a seam and broke it out to the left side and ran past Kyle Srednicki who was coming over on an angle.
“A lot of what they did was a lot of cutbacks, a lot of interior runs where they were able to wind back and then get their running backs to the second level,” Massengale said.
Fitch got the ball back on the ensuing kickoff when it was booted hard and caromed off a Stonington player to a Fitch’s Quartney Parker.
The Bears would run only nine more offensive plays, only one of which was productive — a 60-yard bomb from White to Matt Mitchell on second-and-30 from the Stonington 10.
The game ended with the Fitch QB taking a knee at the Stonington 4-yard line.
Massengale said it was “disappointing” to give up so much yardage to a team that runs the same kind of offense (double-wing).
“When we’re running our defense against their plays we’re usually not using the players that can really replicate that offense because their on the defensive side of the ball. So it’s difficult to replicate,” he said.
Massengale said Fitch, his alma mater, played excellent.
“They were much sharper than us and they took advantaged of a lot of things,” he said.
Fitch was coming off a 62-26 loss at La Salle Academy in Providence.
The Bears were making their season debut.
Asked if not playing last week might have, in hindsight, hurt the Bears, Massengale said: “We don’t have an incredible amount of control over that with the scheduling. It is what it is.”
This is the third year in a row that Fitch and Stonington played.
The Falcons won 28-7 last season en route to an 8-3 record that includes a 38-7 Class L quarterfinal loss to Windsor. The Bears won two years ago, 13-12.
Stonington makes its ECC Medium Division debut on Friday, playing at Montville at 6:30 p.m.