GRISWOLD — The Stonington High football team can't catch a break this season.
The Bears certainly didn't get any in a 14-7 ECC out-of-division loss to Griswold on Friday afternoon.
First, top rusher and scorer Christian Hudson tweaked his knee in practice this week and didn't play.
Then, a rare roughing the holder penalty wiped out Mahmoud Salha's blocked kick of a conversion attempt after a Griswold touchdown, giving the Wolverines another try that they turned into a two-point running play and an 8-7 lead.
Finally, Salha's 80-yard interception return for a potential game-tying touchdown was nullified by a newly instituted infraction, the blindside block.
The key calls hurt the Bears (0-4). But Stonington coach A.J. Massengale felt his young team still could have pulled the game out against a Griswold squad playing its first game in three years without senior quarterback Andrew Koziol, who broke his collarbone last week.
"This one is on us," said Massengale, who declined to comment on the penalties. "We need to be able to overcome adversity. Defensively we had a lot of young kids playing who did well. But we have to handle whatever we're presented with. We can't get too high or too low."
Neither team marched up and down the field. Griswold passed for just 1 yard and had three possessions that went three-and-out. Stonington passed for 50 yards and rushed for 150, but experienced some success with senior back Josh Curtin (19 for 100 yards) out of the I formation.
Stonington abandoned its staple double-wing offense for long stretches as Hudson watched the game without pads under his Stonington jersey.
"What's the definition of insanity?" Massengale asked. "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. We have to try something different. We tried the I formation today."
Stonington took a 7-0 lead when Curtin ran up the middle, sidestepped two defenders and sprinted 44 yards for a score with 4:30 left in the first quarter. Josh Mooney's kick was good.
The Bears also tried two onside kicks that were unsuccessful. Griswold, though, was unable to capitalize on the field position.
Midway through the second quarter, though, Wolverines back Chris Thibidou (15 for 126) ran 45 yards. A Stonington facemask penalty put the ball on the Bears 18.
Stonington's defense stiffened until Anthony Franklin ran a jet sweep on fourth and goal for a 9-yard TD with 4:45 left. Salha blocked the conversion kick, but Stonington's roughing the holder call gave Griswold another conversion shot, which it turned into Logan Chappell's run for an 8-7 lead.
Griswold failed to run out the half in the last minute, unsuccessfully going for fourth and 1 at its 20.
Drew Champagne then threw to Curtin in the end zone, but Curtin was ruled to have stepped out of bounds.
Thibidou gave Griswold a 14-7 lead on a 17-yard TD run with 6:16 left in the third. Three minutes later, Salha picked off a Jaiden Curtin-Quinn pass and returned it 80 yards for a score only to see the TD wiped out on the blindside block.
Stonington had one last chance to tie late in the fourth quarter. Starting at its 13 with 4:13 left, Stonington marched on passes of 12 and 21 yards from Champagne to Curtin across midfield. But Griswold's Devin Chykow made a leaping interception at the 21, and Griswold ran out the clock.
The Bears have an upcoming bye week before looking to get in the win column Oct. 18 at Windham.