WOODSTOCK, Conn. — Stonington High football coach A.J. Massengale wanted to reward senior captain C.J. Dipollino, a starting defensive lineman and backup blocking tight end, with a touchdown Saturday.
The Bears led 28-8 en route to their 48-8 ECC out-of-division victory over Woodstock Academy, and the Bears’ mentor called a pass play for Dipollino at the 1-yard line. Stonington’s standout skill position players had already enjoyed productive days, and Massengale figured a rare pass from that spot on the field would lead to an easy toss from Divante White to Dipollino in the back of the end zone.
“C.J. isn’t the type of kid who would say, ‘I want to get a touchdown,’ because he does so much for our team that his contributions are recognized,” Massengale said. “But I wanted to get him one.”
White, however, fumbled the snap and Woodstock recovered. Massengale’s tribute seemingly went the way of a good deed gone awry.
But it turned out to be a happy ending as Dipollino got another chance for his once-in-a-season opportunity. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder played tailback and scored the Bears’ sixth touchdown on a 1-yard plunge.
“I’m a little out of my element with the ball on the goal ine,” Dipollino said. “I scored once in my freshman year and a few in youth league. The play was all kind of a blur.”
Stonington (3-2) must have looked like a blur to the 0-6 Centaurs. The Bears gained 494 yards on just 44 plays. Zach Poirier gained 138 yards on 10 carries and scored three touchdowns. Matt Mitchell had 101 rushing yards on seven carries and caught two passes for 60 yards, scoring one TD apiece on the ground and in the air.
Harry Calmar added 87 yards on nine carries. White was 7 of 11 passing for three touchdowns and 131 yards.
The overmatched Centaurs, though, gave an inspired effort, controlling the ball for 55 offensive plays, paced by back Justin Cutting’s 22 carries for 127 yards. Woodstock actually led late in the first quarter, 8-7, and kept the game reasonably close with a ball-control read-option attack.
“We got better this week, primarily because we had a great week of practice,” Massengale said. “Woodstock played as hard as they could. They were telling us this was probably the best game they’ve had all year.”
If first impressions are important, Stonington didn’t make a good one. Woodstock’s Trent Appleton intercepted a pass on the Bears’ first play. After Poirier’s 54-yard TD run gave the Bears a 7-0 lead, Woodstock answered on Cutting’s 45-yard TD run up the middle, and his two-point conversion run to make it, 8-7, in the first quarter.
Stonington punter Seamus Wallace’s coffin-corner kick to the 7 pushed back Woodstock, which responded with a three-and-out and 9-yard punt. Stonington took two plays to drive 21 yards, scoring on Poirier’s 9-yard run to make it 13-8.
White’s aerial attack accounted for Stonington’s next score as he hit 5-of-5 for 53 yards including a 3-yard TD pass to Bow Johnson. Calmar’s conversion run made it, 21-8, with 10:48 left in the half.
The Bears drove 69 yards in seven plays on their next possession, scoring when Poirier caught a 26-yard slant pass from White to make it 28-8 in the second quarter.
Stonington added a touchdown in the third quarter on White’s 40-yard pass to Mitchell and two scores in the fourth on Dipollino’s plunge and Mitchell’s 31-yard run.
Kicker Jack Riordan made five of six extra point kicks. For Mitchell, scoring touchdowns in two different ways shows the junior’s diversified talents, Massengale said. Six of his seven carries were over 10 yards as he read good blocks and made decisive cuts against the grain.
“He’s a very good football player who we use in a varsity of ways,” Massengale said.
Mitchell credited his blocking.
“I do whatever the coach tells me to do,” Mitchell said. “It’s easy to read the field when the team is laying good blocks and making me look good. I’m more happy that we won our third in a row. It was a long drive here and we didn’t want to go home empty handed.”
Defensively, Stonington got a lift from linebacker Zach Mueller, cornerback Johnson, who broke up two passes, and sophomore lineman Julian Maiorano, who recorded a sack and a tackle for a loss. Sophomore Tyler Burnside kicked off well, including one for a touchback.
“It was nice to get a lot of players involved,” Massengale said. “We have to tighten up a bit defensively against the run, because East Lyme is a very physical running team.”
The Bears play the Vikings 6:30 p.m. Friday at East Lyme.
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