WOODBURY – The Nonnewaug football team lost its home finale 56-14 to Cromwell/Portland, but head coach Zach Mihaly felt his team performed better than the scoreboard indicated.
“I think this team and this program is starting to get a chip on their shoulder,” Mihaly said. “I think being 1-8 and knowing very well we can have a much better record, they see that and they’re showing it, and now we have to move it in the right direction.”
Not only was Mihaly happy that his team did not give up despite the scoreboard, he was happy the Chiefs didn’t back down when Cromwell/Portland, which is fighting for a Class S playoff spot, took command of the game early.
The Chiefs did, at times, lose composure, and did receive a few flags for late hits and unsportsmanlike conduct.
“It’s the heat of battle and the heat of competition, it’s a number of things,” Mihaly said about the calls. “It was Senior Day, so there were high emotions flying around.”
There were some bright spots for Nonnewaug early in the game. After Cromwell/Portland opened with a 6-play, 69-yard scoring drive to take an 8-0 lead, Nonnewaug appeared ready to answer.
Running out of the I formation, junior running back Justin Southard carried the ball for 7-, 32-, and 15-yard gains. But John Vanderspek’s 33-yard field goal attempt was blocked, and recovered by Cromwell/Portland at its 34 yard line.
On the next play, Chiefs defender Joe Wall picked off a Bryce Karstetter pass. However, Nonnewaug was flagged for a late hit on the quarterback, and Cromwell/Portland regained possession. Cromwell/Portland scored five plays later to give them a 16-0 lead.
A fumbled handoff on Nonnewaug’s next drive – coupled with an unsportsmanlike conduct call after the play – set up a third Cromwell/Portland touchdown. Cromwell/Portland then recovered a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff to set up another touchdown, and went up 36-0 with :25 left in the first half.
But Nonnewaug showed it had life with a 3-play 65-yard scoring drive to end the half.
Jarrett Michaels hit Wall for a 40-yard completion along the Nonnewaug sideline. Michaels then completed a screen pass to Southard that went for 20 yards, and then found Southard alone in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown at the buzzer. Vanderspek’s PAT cut Cromwell/Portland’s lead to 36-7.
Nonnewaug scored on an 11-play, 50-yard drive to open the second half. Michaels capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run.
“There were opportunities to be successful in this game, and they exposed it on film,” Mihaly said. “We just came too late again.”