State football beat: NFA thrilled for Week 4 test vs. Glastonbury

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NFA’s Marcus Outlow (right) and Khaleed Exum-Strong (4) run upfield during last year’s Class LL semifinal victory vs. Staples. Photo Mary Albl

Norwich Free Academy coach Jemal Davis desperately wanted his team to play 11 games. It’s just that no one  with a open date was desperate to play the ECC juggernaut.

Davis tried, but NFA in 2012 was the worst enemy of 2013′s scheduling. The Wildcats dominated the state a year ago, going 10-0, then crushing Newtown and upsetting Staples on the way to the state title game. Davis even had to suspended himself for violating the CIAC’s ‘score management’ policy in a 51-0 victory over the FCIAC’s Stamford.

So NFA was left to stew at home while the season began. When the Wildcats finally got on the field vs. Montville, they were so dominant, starters only played a quarter or so in a 41-28 victory. ”We really didn’t get the game situation as we would have liked,” Davis said.

That’s why Davis was thrilled that Fitch made the Wildcats sweat last Friday. NFA didn’t look so hot vs. the Falcons’ defense. It only had a 20-14 halftime lead before busting loose in a 40-14 victory. This time, the starters played well into the second half.

Now, Davis believes the Wildcats are prepared to face quarterback Jalen Ollie and Glastonbury (2-1) in an anticipated game at Tomahawk Field Friday night.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” Davis said of the Fitch game. “If we came out and played the way we’re capable of playing, we could have been in a situation where we played two weeks and our guys didn’t play a full game.”

NFA sailed so easily through the ECC a year ago, Davis couldn’t gauge his team’s true strengths until the state playoffs. NFA, ranked No. 3 in the GameTimeCT/New Haven Register poll will have good idea of where they stand when they travel to Glastonbury in a game that’s tipping the scales in magnitude, at least on the eastern end of the state.

The game is a byproduct of a failed attempt by the ECC and CCC to create crossover matchups in Week 1. NFA and Glastonbury managed to keep their game. NFA is so happy, it is chartering three fan school busses for its large student population. The Day of New London will broadcast the game live at TheDay.com.

“We’re the only LL school in our league, so it’s rare in the ECC that we get to play a big game so early in the season,” Davis said. “We’re excited. The whole community is geared up. They have high expectations and we have high expectations. And the media following us have elevated that.”

[Related: Glastonbury QB Ollie learned football leadership from basketball dad]

The Tomahawks are 2-1. They opened the season with a hard-fought 16-9  loss vs. Southington. A week later, they needed a rally to defeat Hall. They overwhelmed South Windsor last week.

“They’re going to be ready for us,” Davis said. “This is their chance to get back on track. They’ve played three games, too, versus some good teams which puts them at an advantage over us.”

On paper, however, NFA looks like the bigger, stronger and more experienced team. The Wildcats return almost everyone from last year’s Class LL runner-up team, including Boston College recruit Marcus Outlow, regarded as one of the best tailbacks in Connecticut.

Outlow hasn’t burned up the stat sheets like Ansonia’s Arkeel Newsome, mostly because the Wildcats enjoy spreading the ball around. “He hasn’t received the touches like those state’s other backs over the years because he does a lot of different things for us,” Davis said. “He’s been great about it, but we do recognize that we need to get Marcus more touches.”

The Wildcats are much more than Outlow. Khaleed Exum-Strong has been one of the team’s best two-way players. A tailback who has played beneath Outlow’s shadow for his career, the junior has run for 154 yards and four touchdowns. “He’s just as much a threat as Marcus is,” Davis said. “If teams are going to key on Marcus, Khaleed is a guy who can come in and give us some big plays.”

Needing to shore up his defense a tad, Davis decided to turn Exum-Strong loose at the safety position. The results have been spectacular. Exum-Strong made two key interceptions vs. Fitch. ”He brings the same type of offensive mentality to the defensive side,” Davis said. “He just flies around. He turned that Fitch game around.”

NFA got an surprise this offseason when the CIAC granted a hardship waiver to 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior Tuzar Skipper, an all-state Walter Camp selection at defensive end. Since graduation cut into NFA’s offensive line, Davis asked Skipper to play both ways. “We’ve put more on his table this year because we know he’s such an impact player,” Davis said. “He’s done a great job with it.”

Skipper, a guard, adds  more beef and experience to a line that brought back just two starters. The remainder of NFA’s line goes: 6-4, 230; 6-5, 275; 6-4, 230. The center, 6-foot-2, 220-pound Colby Britt was a guard last year before moving over. “We’ve got some good size there, but they’re still inexperienced,” Davis said.

But the biggest change is at quarterback, where Alex Beaudreault has taken over for Joey Paparelli, a dynamic quarterback now at Bryant. Beaudrealt transferred from Windham and is still learning the nuances of NFA’s spread after compared to the Whippets’ double wing.

“Our success last year was greatly due to Joey Paparelli. We’re still waiting to see how Alex performs in a big game. He hasn’t had the opportunity to do that in a game with all the press, and a game that’s being televised,” Davis said. “We’ll need to find that out. But the great thing is we have a great group and he doesn’t have to do everything.”

Next to Ollie, the son of UConn men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie, the Tomahawks star receiver Anthony Anisimov, senior linebacker Justin Kretzmer, DB Kyran McKinney-Crudden and nose tackle Andrew Cavanna, the reigning New England wrestling champion at 220 pounds.

“This is our opportunity to see where we are at beginning of year,” Davis said. “This will tell us a lot.”

ECC Happenings

  • Montville’s Jeremiah Crowley broke the state’s single-game rushing record with 524 yards in a 49-37 victory over Stonington.
  • Ledyard stayed unbeaten with a 55-14 rout of Killingly. JoJo Shumaker ran for 179 yards and scored four touchdowns for the Colonels. Killingly didn’t have the services of back Tyler Stucke, who injured his ankle the week before.
  • Griswold and Windham were supposed to play Friday night, but a power failure at Windham forced a postponement to Saturday. It was worth the wait. D.J. Jackson scored on a 1-yard run and then kicked the extra point for a 21-20 victory. Griswold (2-1) dodged a haymaker when it blocked a 28-yard field goal try with 4:37 remaining.
  •  Seth Hoagland threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns, he ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns as Waterford rallied from 14 down to top Bacon Academy 42-35 for its first victory. Chase Speller scored the winner on an 8-yard run. Bacon’s Nate Kozlowski threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns — 219 yards and two scores of that went to Ryan Duclos.

Last week

NFA 40, Fitch 14
Ledyard 55, Killingly 14
Montville 49, Stonington 37
Plainfield 55, St. Bern./Norw. Tech 19
Waterford 42, Bacon Acad. 35
Griswold 21, Windham 20
East Lyme 40, Woodstock 14

This week

Thursday
St. Bern./Norw. Tech at Windham, 6:30 p.m.

Friday
Fitch at East Lyme, 6:30 p.m.
Bacon Acad. at Killingly, 6:30 p.m.
Stonington at Waterford, 6:30 p.m.
Woodstock at Griswold, 6:30 p.m.
Ledyard at New London, 6:30 p.m.
Montville at Plainfield, 6:30 p.m.

NFA at Glastonbury, 6:30 p.m.

CCC Happenings

  • Weaver snapped a 23-game losing streak emphatically last week. The Beavers rode Mark Jennings to a 37-0 victory over Rockville. He opened the game 87-yard kickoff return touchdown, threw a pair of touchdown passes to Jordan Shakes and added 114 yards rushing.
  • Next to Wolcott’s 28-point comeback vs. Seymour, the wildest Week 3 game in the state might have happened between Conard and East Hartford. The teams’ quarterbacks — East Hartford’s Griffin Michalek and Conard’s Ryan Bell combined for nearly 900 yards passing.

Michalek was 18 of 34 for 441 yards and seven touchdowns. The seven touchdowns are good for a tie for third place with eight others in the state record book. Bell set a school record with 402 yards and five touchdowns on 32 of 54 passing.

Six of the passes East Hartford’s Cameron Byrd caught went for touchdowns. He finished with 185 yard receiving. He  also returned an interception for a touchdown. Meanwhile, three receivers went over 100 yards for Conard, which this year switched from a Wing-T to a spread offense for the first time in its long history under coach Rob Cerosimo.

Down 28-12 in the first half, East Hartford scored four straight touchdowns for a 40-28 halftime lead.

  • A week after scoring just seven points vs. Bristol Eastern, Khalil Patterson amassed 215 yards rushing and four touchdowns as Hartford Public routed RHAM 42-20. Public amassed 482 total yards.
  • Southington, which shut out Simsbury 38-0 and is has allowed the third-least in Connecticut, has a bye week.

CCC Last week

Southington 38, Simsbury 0
Bulkeley 26, Fermi 21
Hartford Pub. 41, RHAM 20
Farmington 42, Maloney 12
Middletown 40, Brist.East. 0
Windsor 47, Brist.Cent. 0
Berlin 41, Tolland 6
Platt 33, Plainville 0
Bloomfield 39, NW Catholic 8
Rocky Hill 49, E.Catholic 14
Manchester 36, New Britain 6
Hall 48, Newington 21
Glastonbury 42, S.Windsor 14
Wethersfield 62, E.O. Smith 21
E.Hartford 52, Conard 42
Weaver 37, Rockville 0

CCC This week
Friday
Newington at Manchester, 6:00 p.m.
S.Windsor at E.Hartford, 7:00 p.m.
Conard at New Britain, 7:00 p.m.
Berlin at Rockville, 6:30 p.m.
Platt at Tolland, 6:30 p.m.
Bloomfield at Rocky Hill, 7:00 p.m.
E.O. Smith at Maloney, 6:00 p.m.
Bulkeley at Brist.East., 7:00 p.m.
Farmington at Wethersfield, 7:00 p.m.
Hartford Pub. at Windsor, 7:00 p.m.
Middletown at Fermi, 7:00 p.m.

NFA at Glastonbury, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday
Simsbury at Hall, 2:00 p.m.
E.Catholic at Weaver, 2:00 p.m.
Plainville at NW Catholic, 2:00 p.m.
Brist.Cent. at RHAM, 3:00 p.m.

Pequot Happenings

  • Jake Ward and Morgan rolled to a 43-6 victory over Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby. Ward racked up 213 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. The Huskies are 3-0 as they head to Coginchaug.
  • Avon (2-1), a 42-7 winner over Nonnewaug, plays one of the league’s biggest games when it faces unbeaten Valley Regional/Old Lyme. Valley’s allowed just 14 points in three games, which ties it with Middletown for the least allowed in the state. Southington is third with 17 points allowed.
  • Hyde plays another big league game when it takes on 2-0 Canton.

Pequot Last Week

Enfield 42, Stafford/East Windsor 7
Cov./Wind. Tech/Bolton 42, H-K 16
Morgan 43, W. Locks/Suffield/E. Granby 6
N.Branford 42, Gilbert/NW Regional 25
Hyde 6, Granby 0 (OT)
Cromwell 20, Ell./Somers 8
Avon 42, Nonnewaug 7
Canton 47, Housatonic/Wamogo 6

Pequot This Week
Friday
Cov./Wind. Tech/Bolton at SMSA/University, 6:00 p.m.
Ell./Somers at Enfield, 7:00 p.m.
Granby at H-K, 5:00 p.m.
Avon at Valley/Old Lyme, 6:30 p.m.
Nonnewaug at W. Locks/Suffield/E. Granby, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday
Stafford/East Windsor at Cromwell, 2:00 p.m.
N.Branford at Old Saybrook/Westbrook, 2:15 p.m.
Morgan at Coginchaug, 2:30 p.m.
Lewis Mills at Gilbert/NW Regional, 2:30 p.m.
Hyde at Canton, 3:00 p.m.

Comments

  1. dave k says

    Ray, How come Ansonia didn’t come a knocking ? Oh that’s right they had that big match up with Torrington week 1.

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