OXFORD – The Nonnewaug football team lost to North Branford in its “home” opener Friday night, a game that was played under the lights at Oxford High School, 41-14.
Nonnewaug got within striking distance early in the third quarter and trailed 21-14. But a punt return for a touchdown by North Branford defensive back Sydney Franklin opened the floodgates for the Thunderbirds.
“We had someone there to make the play, but we didn’t make the tackle when we were supposed to,” Nonnewaug head football coach Zach Milhaly said. “Guys weren’t staying in their lanes, and it killed our momentum.”
But it wasn’t just that play. Mihaly said he felt his defensive players were in the right place at the right times, but were unable to make the plays when it mattered.
“We schemed them very well and the kids were in the right place,” Mihaly said. “But it comes down to a guts thing. The kids just have to make the plays when they are there.”
Junior quarterback Jarrett Michaels scored both of Nonnewaug’s touchdowns, and senior John Vanderspek added both extra points.
Michaels scored his first touchdown on a fourth-and-one quarterback sneak. Michaels leaned forward for the first down, then popped out of the pack and beat the defense for a 54-yard score. That cut North Branford’s lead to 14-7 with 2:05 left to play in the second quarter.
Michaels’ second touchdown came on a 19-yard bootleg with 8:10 left in the third quarter, and cut North Branford’s lead to 21-14.
That touchdown was set up when Michaels kicked off the second half with an onsides kick that was recovered by senior linebacker Chris Criscione.
“[Michaels] is a gutsy kid, someone who wants to put the team on his back,” Mihaly said. “He’s a very quiet kid, but he speaks with his play. He’s a quiet leader, but when he steps on the field, he’s in the zone and he makes some big plays.”
As great of a game as Michaels played, Mihaly pointed out that Michaels “made a couple of mental mistakes tonight” from his QB position. That included an interception by North Branford’s Marquis McFadden that was returned for a 40-yard touchdown that gave the Thunderbirds a 27-14 lead.
Mihaly said Michaels is the kind of player who wants to carry the team on his back.
“In his mind, [Michaels] feels like he has to make the play on every play, rather than throwing the ball away when we need to,” Mihaly said.
Nonnewaug fell to 0-3 with the loss, and has its CIAC-mandated bye week this week. Nonnewaug returns to the field on October 6 with a road game at Morgan.
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