STONINGTON — Stonington High's football team didn’t have the season it was hoping for this fall.
The young Bears went 1-9, and things ended with a thud — a 61-0 loss to Westerly in the annual Thanksgiving Day game.
Still, Stonington had its bright spots, and two of them were seniors Riley Burnside and Nate Miller, who were both named by coaches to the All-ECC Division II first team.
Burnside, who was selected as a back, has been “a huge part of our program for the past three years,” A.J. Massengale, who in November finished his 15th year as Bears head coach, said in an email.
Burnside contributed on both sides of the ball — and all over the field. He played running back, quarterback and receiver on offense. Defensively, he could be found at linebacker, defensive back and as the team’s punter.
“As a player, he stood out in all three phases with his athleticism and intelligence,” Massengale said. “He is one of the most versatile players I have ever coached.
“More than this, however, was the type of leader he was this season for our young players. He never pointed a finger at anyone, and always did what was best for the team. Selflessness is a difficult character trait for a lot of people, but Riley certainly demonstrated it countless times this season.”
Burnside rushed for 269 yards and four touchdowns, had 12 receptions for 68 yards and was 13-for-33 passing for 213 yards.
In Stonington’s 42-28 win over Waterford on Oct. 26, he rushed for 66 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. His best game throwing the ball came in a tough 8-6 loss to Plainfield on Sept. 28: 8 of 14 for 172 yards.
Miller, who was selected as a linebacker, also excelled at running back.
He led the team with 560 yards rushing on 142 carries (3.9 average). He also scored four touchdowns. Miller’s season included two straight 100-yard games, including a 26-carry, 169-yard, one-touchdown effort in a 13-6 loss to Bacon Academy on Nov. 3.
And on defense, he was a force.
“His quiet demeanor wasn't all too telling for the aggressiveness with which he played every week,” Massengale said. “He is a very athletic football player who could play sideline to sideline while also being excellent at causing disruption in the backfield for opposing defenses.
“Like Riley, Nate set an incredible example for our younger players by the way he carries himself. Also, he made players around him better by being someone that opposing teams had to account for on every play.”
Massengale added that both players will be missed.
“Riley and Nate would be able to play with the best players, and teams, we have had here at Stonington during my 16 years, without a doubt,” he said.
Senior lineman Ben Cook was an honorable-mention pick to the All-ECC Division II team. Senior Evan Champagne was the sportsmanship award winner, and Miller was the scholar-athlete recipient.