WESTERLY — Awards were handed out to seven players following the annual Thanksgiving Day game between Stonington High and Westerly High on Thursday.
The awards have long been a part of the rich tradition in the annual game between the two schools.
The Stonington Police Department has been presenting awards to players from each team since 1958. And the Geoffrey L. Moore Memorial Trophy that goes to the winning team was first awarded in 1950.
Moore played for Westerly and still holds the record for most points scored in a game between the two schools when he had 51 in the Nov. 16, 1917 game. That one could stand for some time.
Westerly's Zack Tuck, who rushed for 241 yards and scored three touchdowns, received the police association awards as Westerly's top offensive player. He also received the WBLQ Sports Open Mic MVP award.
"It's an experience that I'm never going to forget," Tuck said. "The energy here is amazing. Obviously, we are rivals and all those guys on Stonington, I am pretty close with a bunch of them. It was just good getting out here and playing with everybody, really. ... These guys (Stonington) had no sign of quitting. They play with the heart of lions."
Senior defensive back Joe Gervasini, who intercepted a Stonington pass with 3:05 remaining that essentially sealed the win, was named the Bulldogs' top defensive player.
For Stonington, defensive tackle Trevor Costa was named the top defensive player. Luke Lowry, who caught a pair of TD passes, was named the top offensive player.
Westerly's two-way lineman, Xavier Webster, received the Carl Myllymaki award as the top lineman of the season for the Bulldogs. The award for the 2021 spring season was presented to Mike Garafola. The two teams did not play in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The award has been presented each year since 1968. It honors Myllymaki, a former Westerly football player, who was killed in the Vietnam War.
The Washington Trust Leadership Awards were given to Westerly's Greg Gorman and Stonington's Alex Castagliuolo.
Matching a record
The two touchdown receptions by Lowry matched a record held by several others in the long rivalry.
The junior caught the first one in the second quarter on a play that covered 36 yards. Quarterback Dorian White hit him in stride for the score.
Lowry caught his second TD after the ball bounced off the hands of a Westerly defensive back. The play covered 67 yards.
Others who have two TD receptions include Stonington's Miller, no first name given in the the account of the game, on Nov. 8, 1912; Stonington's Jim Ballato, Armistice Day, 1951; Stonington's Pete Arnold, Thanksgiving Day, 1955; Westerly's Jim Scanlon, Thanksgiving Day, 1969; and Stonington's Mike Greene, Thanksgiving Day, 2003.
Grounded air attack
Stonington's defense did a good job of limiting Westerly's passing attack.
The Bears put good pressure on quarterback Lance Williams, limiting him to just five completions for 73 yards. Westerly receiver Luke Marley, who had 38 receptions for 806 yards and eight TDs, did not catch a pass, the first time that's happened in a game this season.
Linemen Trevor Costa, Jacob Yackley, Patrick O'Brey and linebackers Jack Zuro and Patrick McGugan were among those that played well up front for the Bears.
"Their linebackers and their defensive line played great," Westerly coach Stanley Dunbar said. "Their front seven, as far as creating pressure in the passing game, they really did a good job. They pressured our quarterback and they had a lot of help over the top on Luke, and it made us think a little more when we were dropping back."
But stopping the run was a different matter.
Westerly rushed for 261 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Stonington, on the other hand, rushed for 37 yards on just 16 carries. Stonington had just 6 yards rushing in the second half. The Bears were hampered when their top offensive threat, Lucian Tedeschi, was injured early in the game. He only caught two passes and did not have a rushing attempt.
In high school football, if you can't stop the run, it's a problem. But if you can't run the ball, either, it's an even bigger problem.
After Stonington made it a one score game, 21-14, on Lowry's second TD reception in the fourth quarter, Westerly responded.
The Bulldogs moved 71 yards on eight plays with Tuck scoring on a 6-yard run with 4:11 left. The drive consumed almost five minutes and put the Bulldogs in control.
"I thought our kids responded every time Stonington made a big play," Dunbar said. "I think we came back and moved the ball and were able to be successful. I think the key to the game was us obviously stopping the run, but offensively we sustained the ball and had the ball for a long time."
In addition to Gervasini's interception, Mike Comstock also recovered a fumble on Stonington's final offensive play.