STRATFORD — Bunnell did all it could do Thanksgiving morning to put itself in reach of the postseason.
Unfortunately, simply winning was not enough.
The Bulldogs did their part in beating Stratford 46-6 at Penders Field, however, the eighth and final playoff spot in Class L went to four-time defending champion New Canaan, which beat Darien, 27-0.
“Whatever happens, happens,” Bunnell coach Sean Mignone said shortly before the Rams’ victory went final. “The only thing we could do is beat Stratford. We can’t control anything else that happens, regardless of who it is. We took care of our end.”
At 8-2, the Bulldogs finished mere percentage points behind New Canaan (8-2). Stratford ended its season at 4-6.
Junior Ja’len Madison was named the game’s MVP after running for 164 yards — 100 of which came after halftime — and three scores for the Bulldogs. His 18-yard touchdown run came on the Bulldogs’ second play from scrimmage and put them up 7-0.
The Bulldogs’ lead was just 13-6 at halftime, but they picked it up from there, outscoring Stratford 33-0 in the second half. When all was said and done, they had their 10th win in the last 11 meetings over their town rival.
“We missed a couple plays here and there [in the first half], but the kids were fighting, which is what we asked them to do,” Stratford coach Jack Petion said. “The second half it died off a little bit. It was like a snowball effect.”
Two interceptions, a partially blocked punt and penalties were all factors in allowing Bunnell to start five of its six drives in the second half inside Stratford territory. All five of those drives resulted in touchdowns.
“We didn’t play well in the first half,” Mignone said. “We came out and we scored first, very quickly. I kind of felt like a lot of our guys said, ‘Ok, this is going to be easy.’”
Senior Jarrod Davis (six carries, 94 yards) gave the Bulldogs some breathing room late in the third quarter, scoring on a 21-yard run to increase their lead to 20-6. The Bulldogs then poured it on in the fourth, outscoring the Red Devils 26-0.
“It feels good,” said Madison, who had touchdown runs of 3 and 47 yards in the final quarter. “We had a talk with the [offensive] line after the first half. It was a little slow, but they picked it up.”
Stratford’s lone points came on a 36-yard pass from Jack Ryan to Toure Hall, cutting the lead to 7-6 in the first quarter.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Ja’len Madison, Bunnell, RB: The junior ran for 164 yards and three touchdowns (18, 3 and 47 yards) on 22 carries.
IN THE BOOKS
Jack Petion, a former assistant coach at SCSU, said he learned “a lot” in his first season coaching Stratford. His goal moving forward is simple. “We’re just going to work to get better next year,” he said.
“In was good to get all our backs [Madison, Jarrod Davis, Ma’Kai Curry and Christ N’dabian] in the end zone. We have some backs that no one gets to see.” — Bunnell coach Sean Mignone
BUNNELL 46, STRATFORD 6
BUNNELL 7 6 7 26 — 46
STRATFORD 6 0 0 0 — 6
B — Ja’len Madison 18 run (Avery Nunn kick)
S — Toure Hall 36 pass Jack Ryan (Pass failed)
B — Richard Souffrant 1 run (Kick failed)
B — Jarrod Davis 21 run (Nunn kick)
B — Ma’Kai Curry 1 run (Nunn kick)
B — Madison 3 run (Nunn kick)
B — Madison 47 run (Kick failed)
B — Christ N’dabian 9 run (Run failed)
Records: Bunnell 8-2; Stratford 4-6