MONROE — They may be young in spots, small in spots, inexperienced in spots, but Masuk’s football team grew up a bit Friday night at Benedict Field.
Masuk scored on four of its five first-half possessions, marched for another touchdown to open the second half, beating Pomperaug 45-7 for its first win in three tries.
“Today was very much a growing experience,” senior quarterback Thomas Juliano said. “We got better as a team. It’s all in the practice field.”
Juliano, back from a concussion that cost him the previous game and a half, threw for three touchdowns and 247 yards.
The Panthers — Masuk’s Panthers, that is, as they’re both Panthers — answered a game-opening Pomperaug touchdown with Kevin Luke’s 78-yard scoring run.
“It was nice bouncing back after they scored on the first drive, just keeping our foot on the gas in front of the home crowd,” said Chris Tillotson, who ran for a score and caught a touchdown pass. “That was nice.”
Pomperaug’s sideline (and crowd) seemed unhappy about the penalty disparity: Pomperaug was hit nine times for 66 yards in penalties, some of them shortened because they were half-the-distance assessments deep in Pomperaug territory. Masuk was called twice for 15 yards.
“I don’t care who you are, (penalties like that) are not going to win you a football game,” Pomperaug coach Tony Pereira said.
“The message for us is to go back, get better from it, learn from it and approach next week with a learning mindset.”
Masuk (1-2, 1-0 SWC Division I) deferred after winning the toss. Pomperaug (2-1, 0-1) got the ball near midfield and went 47 yard on 12 plays to take the lead and eat up just shy of half the first quarter. Jake Oldham’s 1-yard touchdown run capped it.
Luke, on second-and-16 from Masuk’s 22, took an endaround down the right sideline to answer 1:07 later. And after Pomperaug fumbled on its next possession (and on one of its only two plays to go for more than 10 yards), Masuk marched for another score. It was 14-7 after one, 24-7 at half, 31-7 just 77 seconds into the second half. Contributions came from just about everywhere.
“It’s just a matter of them getting better every day,” Masuk coach Joe Lato said. “Our defense swarmed to the ball. It wasn’t a perfect game, but we played a lot better. We controlled a lot of the things we’ve been stressing.”
Masuk held Pomperaug to 112 yards of total offense, all on the ground; Pomperaug didn’t complete a pass, trying only a handful.
“We just didn’t execute consistently for four quarters,” Pereira said. “You give a team like that extra possessions, that’s what’s going to happen.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Juliano went 25-for-35 for 247 yards and three touchdowns.
Masuk kicker Nolan McCarter went 6-for-6 on point-after tries and kicked a 23-yard field goal when Pomperaug’s goal-line defense held in the second quarter.
Ian Jackson stepping off the bench, making that crazy catch in the corner. We know Chris Tillotson’s a weapon. Tommy Juliano was fantastic at quarterback. Kevin (Luke) was amazing.” —Masuk coach Joe Lato
MASUK 45, POMPERAUG 7
POMPERAUG 7 0 0 0—7
MASUK 14 10 14 7—45
P—Jake Oldham 1 run (Jared Harper kick)
M—Kevin Luke 78 run (Nolan McCarter kick)
M—Chris Tillotson 9 run (McCarter kick)
M—McCarter 23 FG
M—Tillotson 5 pass Thomas Juliano (McCarter kick)
M—Dan Verrastro 2 run (McCarter kick)
M—Ian Jackson 19 pass Juliano (McCarter kick)
M—Luke 21 pass Juliano (McCarter kick)
Records: Pomperaug 2-1, 0-1 SWC Division 1; Masuk 1-2, 1-0