Published October 13. 2012 4:00AM
Montville - Montville High School's dominating performance in a 40-13 victory had as much to do with what happened in the preseason as what transpired on the football field Friday night.
The Indians put in the hard work to prepare for the 2012 season.
Junior Jeremiah Crowley lifted weights six days a week with coach Tanner Grove and took mixed martial arts.
No running back has been as productive as Crowley in the Eastern Connecticut Conference. He rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns and also returned two kickoffs for scores against Windham in a Medium Division matchup.
Led by seniors Jake Basilica, Ryan Murtha and Isaiah Holloway, Montville's offensive and defensive lines wreaked havoc.
The Indians gained strength by taking a sledgehammer to a big tractor tire over the summer. Now they keep the sledgehammer on the sidelines during games.
"We talked about making that transition from all these electrifying skill guys that we had and getting the ball into space and scoring to just kind of pounding away," Grove said. "You saw that tonight, just grinding away."
The Indians (4-1, 2-0) certainly pounded the Whippetts (3-2, 1-1), who led 13-6 early in the second quarter after Spencer Hill scored the second of his two touchdowns.
"They have a lot of outstanding players and they played like champions," Windham coach Brian Crudden said after Montville snapped the Whippets' three-game winning streak.
Crowley, who's waited his turn the last two years, has emerged an elusive and dangerous ball carrier.
Trailing 13-6, Crowley helped ignite Montville by weaving through traffic on the way to an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
"My teammmates were making good blocks the whole game," Crowley said. "It just opened up for me and I saw the hole and I hit it."
Montville seized control after that, completely shutting down the Whippets, who managed only two first downs after intermission.
"We were able to get into a little bit of rhythm in that second quarter, especially in our run game," Grove said. "That's what gave us the edge."
Windham also struggled to contain senior quarterback Nick Clemons, whose seemingly harmless looking sneaks turned into big gainers. He rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns, including a 22-yard scamper that handed the Indians the lead for good, 19-13, with three and a half minutes left in the second quarter.
Crowley opened the second half with another exciting kick return, collecting a bouncing ball and bolting outside for a 77-yard touchdown. He added a two-yard touchdown run later in the quarter for a 34-13 lead.
Clemons easily ran it in from 15 yards out in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring.
Basilica walked off the field carrying the sledgehammer over his shoulder.
The work is far from over for Montville.
"It's exciting," Grove said of the win. "But we still have a great deal of work to do."