STONINGTON — Some times a team pays for not taking advantage of early opportunities.
Not this time.
Stonington High came back stronger in the second half and christened its new artificial turf with a 20-6 victory against Griswold at Donald E. Palmer Field.
The Bears scored on the first series of the game, as senior quarterback Divante White was sharp throwing the ball.
Then ECC-Medium Stonington (2-2) had the ball inside the Griswold 15-yard line two other times in the first half, but came up empty.
And when ECC-Small Griswold (3-2) scored late in the half, the teams went into the break back at square one.
Stonington junior Bow Johnson intercepted a pass on the third play of the second half and returned the ball 20 yards to the Griswold 27-yard line.
Zach Poirier scored five plays later, going 15 yards on an inside reverse and the Bears took a 13-6 lead and ultimately never looked back.
“We wanted to come out and get a win on our first game on the field. We were really pumped up before the game,” Poirier said. “We’ve been practicing on the field since August so it’s not like it’s something new for us. We had three away games first so we all were really looking forward to the first home game.”
Poirier scored again the next time the Bears got the ball, going 63 yards up the middle.
Poirier, a diminutive but talented senior runner, surpassed 2,000 career yards early in the game. He finished the night with 139 yards on 17 carries and has 2,128 for his career.
Quiet and unassuming, Poirier said getting 2,000 doesn’t really mean anything to him.
“Zach is a special football player, he’s a special kid,” Stonington coach A.J. Massengale said. “He’s not your typical kid. He works hard, he’s humble, he’s quiet. He’s such a great worker.”
Poirier’s second touchdown and Jack Riordan’s second straight PAT made it 20-6 with 11:49 remaining in the game.
Twenty points wouldn’t have even kept the Bears in their first two games — a 34-20 loss to Fitch and a 49-37 loss to Montville.
But the Bears played very tough defense against a Griswold team that has some athletes and a talented quarterback in Adam Davis.
“I feel like our defense did great today,” senior linebacker Zach Mueller said. “We were great on tackling, we stopped their run game. We probably held them under 50 yards in the run game. D-line did great, they filled up their holes, linebackers filled up their gaps, and our pass defense was really good, too.
“Their quarterback is pretty good and we shut him down, we sacked him a bunch of times. He only had one touchdown pass on us, and I thought we did really great overall.
“The quarterback was elusive, but we did a good job of establishing an area for him to stay in.
“We didn’t give up too many gaps. He didn’t have any big runs against us so we did a good job containing him. Our ends did a good job and the linemen up front didn’t overpursue at all. It was great.”
Riordan returned the opening kickoff 22 yards to the Stonington 41.
White completed a pass to Johnson for 13 yards, Calmar for 20 and Matt Mitchell for 17 on third-and-5 early in the series.
A 13-yard run by Poirier that put him over 2,000 gave the Bears first-and-goal at the 7. Three plays later White throw a short pass to Mitchell, who turned and went into the left corner of the end zone for the honor of being the first player to score on the new $1.2 million field.
Griswold tied the score 6-6 when Davis fired a 14-yard pass to Zach Hankins in the end zone with 40 seconds left in the first half.
The Wolverines started their scoring series at the Stonington 46. They were aided by a senseless unsportsmanlike penalty by the Bears when Davis was hit after he had gone out of bounds on a 3-yard gain.
Griswold gained only 60 yards in the first half, 32 of them coming on the last drive.
The Bears sacked Davis seven times and intercepted him twice.
Defensive end C.J. Dipollino had three sacks, all in the second half. Riordan had one in each half. Calmar had one in the first half and Mueller had one in the second half.
A number of players broke through to flush Davis and make it possible for others to rack up the sack.
“The defense was spectacular,” Massengale said. “That credit goes to the kids, it goes to our coaches and the preparation this week — in film study and on the practice field.
“We just really focused on tackling, blocking, the fundamentals, and just really playing football; trying to get back in the mindset that we’ve got to step in there and play with these guys whoever’s on the other side.
“And the kids have done it. The last two weeks have been very good weeks of practice.”
Stonington got its first win of the season last week, defeating Waterford 35-21.
“The first couple of weeks was a tackling issue and we’ve obviously fixed that problem,”Mueller said. “We didn’t have any missed tackles (today). I see this as another step forward and we’re just getting better from here on out.”
Stonington plays at Woodstock on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.