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Fitch grinds out win over Stonington

By Ned Griffen

Publication: The Day

Published September 21. 2013 4:00AM   Updated September 21. 2013 10:53AM

Groton - Several times during the course of Friday's game, the players on the Fitch football sidelines chanted for their offensive teammates to "keep grinding."

Grind the Falcons did. They kept moving forward using the program's tried-and-true double-wing offense, gradually wearing down Stonington 34-20 in a high school football game at Dorr Field.

Fitch ran 66 times for 473 yards and five touchdowns. It only attempted five passes.

"Roll up the sleeves," first-year Falcons coach Jordan Panucci said. "When we were on the headsets, that's what we were saying. 'Let's pound it.' That's what we're supposed to do. Pound it and it will break. It worked. That what's we did. God's Offense."

Friday night was a far cry from the 62-26 drubbing the Falcons took last weekend against Rhode Island power LaSalle Academy. The Falcons controlled the line of scrimmage. They averaged 7.2 yards per carry. And they didn't allow an offensive touchdown in the second half.

"We're a running team," senior co-captain John Moscal said. "If we don't have the running going well, we collapse. That's what happens when you run the ball. Holes were opening up left and right. Everything was going well for us."

Fitch got a lot of rushing yards from four different backs, none of which will be confused with being built like Adrian Peterson.

Moscal, a fullback, ran 21 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He's 5-foot-6 and, "165 on a good day."

"Usually when you see players in the NFL at the fullback position, you would think like 6-foot, 5-11, 230 pounds or 240 pound, easy," Moscal said. "I'm nowhere near that.

"You can see how I stay low. I use my low center of gravity to outplay the ends and linebackers. Sometimes it works. Sometimes they just toss me down like a little rag."

Wingback Bobby Johnston, another small but feisty runner, had 23 carries for 151 yards. Terrell Scholle ran 14 times for 98 yards and a score. Senior co-captain Xavier Crawford added four carries for 96 yards and a touchdown.

All of the Falcons' yardage was made possible by a young line - tacklers Jordan Green (senior) and Quinn Leuthy (junior), guards Tory Knaff (senior) and Justin Marceau (sophomore) and sophomore center Billy Goff.

"It's easy to hide behind the line," Moscal said. "Although we're not big on the line, I'm not bigger than them. I kind of hide and get through holes that nobody really sees."

It was not a good season debut for Stonington. Quarterback Divante White is a better passer than some of his predecessors, so the Bears tried to take advantage of his arm.

It didn't work. White completed 7 of 24 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown. Sometimes he overthrew receivers. Sometimes his receivers dropped the ball.

"We did not do a good job with our execution today," Stonington coach A.J. Massengale said. "It's a lot of things. It's not one thing. We just weren't sharp."

Harry Calmar caught a 54-yard touchdown from White and scored on a 71-yard kickoff return for Stonington. Zach Poirier also ran for a 10-yard touchdown.

After the win, Panucci was clutching the game ball.

"You step into big shoes," Panucci said about taking over for former coach Mike Emery. "Everybody expects a lot when you take over as a head coach at a school like this. It's nice to have the W. Now it's time to move forward. Now it's time to think about next week and the beast we have to play (Norwich Free Academy)."

n.griffen@theday.com

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