Norwich — Few, if any, athletic endeavors occur within the Eastern Connecticut Conference during which Norwich Free Academy is rightfully accused of being small.
How ironic, then, that the play that catalyzed the Wildcats' biggest football victory to date this season Friday night was little, old NFA competing against big, bad Ledyard.
It was in the end zone early in the third period when NFA junior Ramel Pires, all 5-feet-7-inches of him, and 6-foot-2 Ledyard receiver Khary Childs went airborne in pursuit of quarterback Ty Ebdon's pass. Childs caught it for a touchdown, but was called for offensive pass interference, negating a score the Colonels desperately needed.
From that moment, NFA scored 14 unanswered points and earned a 32-14 victory before 2,800 fans who enjoyed a rare night game on the NFA campus.
• NFA coach Jemal Davis: "I thought they would call it, but sometimes they don't. I think the official (who was nearest to the NFA sideline) had an angle where he could see the push off. Maybe 50-50 you get that call. I don't think it was blatant. ... It was very big. Obviously, they don't score there and we're controlling the tempo and we go down and score."
• NFA senior Marcus Outlow: "Honestly, I saw Ky kind of push off a little bit but because he had the height advantage, I didn't think he needed to. I kind of saw a scrap. It could have gone both ways. Ramel had to be physical with him because (Childs) has six inches on him, but Ky had to create space."
• Ledyard coach Jim Buonocore: "I saw a guy that was competing for the ball. That's how football works. You compete for the ball. I'm not really seeing what I guess was seen."
The Wildcats (3-1) nonetheless turned last week's loss to Glastonbury into a duller ache, handing Ledyard (4-1) its first loss of the season.
"We did some good things. As I told the kids, we're sitting in a good spot at 4-1 with a lot of season left, playing pretty good football," Buonocore said. "The things that went wrong tonight are correctable. And we walk out of here healthy against a team that's big, fast and has twice the number of kids we have. ... A split with New London and NFA? I'll take it."
The mistakes to which Buonocore alluded included a penalty that forced his team to punt again in the first period. Problem: Ledyard forgot to block NFA senior Airec Ricks, who proved that he is coming by college offers from Assumption, UMass, UConn and Virginia honestly.
Ricks blocked the punt and scored, giving NFA the early lead. NFA also capitalized on C.J. Jarmon's interception late in the first half to score and a pair of blown coverages that led to long pass plays to Ramel Williams and Griffen Gooden.
Outlow led NFA with 124 yards and three scores.
Ebdon finished 12-for-20 for 174 yards and touchdown passes to Childs and River Thomas.
"NFA has some dudes in terms of size, speed ... a week ago they were the No. 3 team in the state," Buonocore said. "They had a touchdown called back (against Glastonbury). It's not like they dropped off the face of the earth."