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Stonington’s Lucian Tedeschi (6) is a threat at running back and quarterback for the Bears. He’s rushed for 561 yards and thrown for 325. | Tim Martin, The Westerly Sun

STONINGTON — A clear trend has developed throughout the Stonington High football team's 2021 season — a return to winning ways.

The Bears are 5-4 after recent struggles. (They were 1-9 in 2018 and 0-10 in '19.)

When Stonington has faced smaller schools with rebuilding squads such as Griswold, Bacon, Montville and Plainfield, Stonington's athleticism has overwhelmed the opposition. Against those teams, which show a combined 7-28 record, including 0-4 against the Bears, Stonington has averaged about 50 points and held foes to between 50 to 120 yards in total offense.

When the Bears have faced bigger schools with physical teams and talented and big offensive players, Stonington has gone 1-4, yielding 300 or more yards in total offense four times.

Stonington coach A.J. Massengale knows the Bears must bust the trend on Thanksgiving Day when they face traditional rival Westerly, which is 7-3 and has a 1,500-yard running back in Zack Tuck.

On Oct. 15, 220-pound Jack Sharpe rushed for 190 yards and five TDs behind a massive offensive line for undefeated Killingly in its 32-7 win over Stonington.

Quarterback Nathan Hynes accounted for 350 yards in total offense for Waterford of ECC's Division II. Fitch, the ECC Division I champ, ran for 170 yards in a tight 13-7 opening win. Windham, a physical team with athleticism, rushed for 380 yards and five TDs in a surprising rout of the Bears.

Westerly, an RIIL Division II playoff semifinalist, features a physical ground game as well as a passing attack behind quarterback Lance Williams, who has thrown for more than 1,300 yards. Top receiver Luke Marley, who was injured in the semifinal loss to St. Raphael, is expected to play Thursday, so the Bulldogs present plenty of challenges for Stonington.

"We are going to need to find a way to manage all of the weapons that Westerly has," Massengale said. "They have some kids that will make you pay if you are not playing at your best, so that's what we will need to do, be the best we have been thus far."

Stonington looks to win its first game in the annual series since posting a 14-0 shutout in 2016. Westerly has dominated since, with routs of 34-14, 61-0 and 28-7 ever since the Bears tasted victory in the rivalry.

Massengale is impressed with the latest version of Westerly.

"On offense, they can score on any play while still playing with the consistency to sustain long drives," Massengale said. "Westerly is very good on defense as well. They just keep coming after you while remaining fundamentally sound."

Stonington is just a play away from entering this game with a 6-3 record. A missed extra point was costly in a 55-54 double-overtime loss to Waterford on Oct. 29. Junior Will French produced a game for the ages with 190 rushing yards and five TDs on the ground and a kickoff return touchdown in that bitter defeat.

French leads Stonington's running attack by committee with 520 yards (10 yards a carry) and 13 touchdowns. Quarterback Lucian Tedeschi has rushed for 561 yards and five TDs to go with his 325 passing yards and five touchdowns. Fellow senior Matt Castagliuolo has rushed for 422 yards (5.5 average) and five TDs.

Senior Dorian White has thrown for 320 yards, starting three games at quarterback when he's not playing defensive end or wide receiver. He has scored three TDs. Receivers Josiah Blackman, Brady Mullen and tight end Pat Obrey have combined for six touchdown receptions. Obrey also caught the winning two-point conversion in the final minute of the season's highlight — a 14-13 victory over then-undefeated Ledyard.

Stonington's offensive line of center Alex Castagliulo, tackles Trevor and Dylan Yackley and guards Jameson Griffiths and Sam Yuengley have formed a consistently productive unit. Senior linebacker Jack Zuro leads Stonington in tackles for losses. Freshman linebacker Patrick McGugan leads the Bears with three interceptions, including one for a touchdown. Luke Lowry (two interceptions), French, Ben Massengale and Jack Scahill form a secondary that has allowed just three TD passes all season ... all in one game against Waterford.

"We will need to possess the ball and put drives together in a consistent manner against these guys," Massengale said. "If we can do that and play defense at our highest level, we should be able to turn this into an exciting game."

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