Pictured: Cromwell/Portland players get ready to take the field Friday night in Clinton, where they rolled to a 36-8 victory. (Photo by Marc Silvestrini)
By Marc Silvestrini
CLINTON — Led by a big-play offense that piled up 310 total yards and a ferocious defense that features three outstanding linebackers, Cromwell/Portland beat Morgan 36-8 Friday night in the first game in 22 months for either program.
Junior quarterback Cole Brisson paced the Panthers’ attack by passing for 180 yards and a touchdown and running for two more.
Meanwhile, the linebacker trio of Ted Williams, Owen Brunk and Ryan Rozich spearheaded a defense that limited the Huskies to 179 yards of total offense and scored a touchdown of its own on a 46-yard interception return by Daevyon Lovelace.
“We played with a lot of energy and did a pretty good job out there tonight, though I still think there are some things we need to clean up,” Panthers coach Randall Bennett said, adding that his team has to do a better job of avoiding penalties in the future. “But overall, I’d have to say I’m pretty happy with the way we played tonight.”
The Panther offense wasted little time in asserting itself, driving 61 yards in four plays on their first possession of the game to grab a lead they would never relinquish.
A 16-yard run by Alex Hair and a 13-yard bullet from Brisson to Williams quickly set the stage for Brisson’s gorgeous 33-yard touchdown pass to Williams, who sped behind the Morgan secondary down the left sideline, gathered in the pass without breaking stride at about the 12 and raced into the end zone. Allen Cohen’s extra point gave the Panthers a quick 7-0 lead three and a half minutes into the game.
“It was just a go-route and I was able to get a step or two behind my man,” Williams said. “It (scoring the touchdown) really felt good after all this time not being able to play football.”
The Panthers struck quickly again early in the second quarter, driving 51 yards in four plays to extend their lead. Williams, who caught three passes for 76 yards on the night and added another 46 yards on the ground, again provided the drive’s biggest play on Cromwell’s first play from scrimmage when he took a handoff from Brisson on a scissors play, broke two or three tackles, and scampered 45 yards to the Morgan 6.
Three plays later, Brisson capped the drive by powering in from the 3-yard line. Cohen’s extra point made it 14-0 with 7:42 to play in the half.
“I thought we played well tonight, especially when you consider it was our first game in almost two years,” Brisson said. “We definitely played with a lot of intensity. This is something we’ve all been waiting for for a long time.”
Following an exchange of possessions, the scrappy Huskies clawed their ay back into the contest by putting together a seven-play, 55-yard drive behind the passing of quarterback Drew Nye and the running of Casey Corrigan. Nye concluded the drive by completing a 10-yard sideline pass to
Garret Garbinski on a fourth-and-9 play from the Panthers’ 30. Garbinski, who caught the ball at about the 20, then broke a tackle at the 13 and raced into the end zone.
An illegal substitution penalty on the point-after attempt forced the Huskies to go for two, but Nye’s completed pass to Alex Fratamico was ruled out of bounds, leaving the score at 14-6.
The game turned for good over the final 1:44 of the first half and the first two minutes of the second half.
After Garbinski’s touchdown, Brisson led a clutch 52-yard scoring drive over the final 104 seconds of the half, hitting Brunk on an 18-yard pass play that brought the ball to the Morgan 34, and Williams on a 26-yarder to the four with 20 seconds left in the half. Brisson completed the drive by scrambling to his left and darting into the end zone just inside the goal line flag to give the Panthers a 21-6 lead at the half.
Lovelace pretty much put the game out of reach on Morgan’s first possession of the second half when he intercepted a Nye pass and returned it 46 yards for Cromwell’s fourth touchdown of the day. Brisson hit Hair with a two-point conversion pass to make it 29-6.
Hair, who rushed for 68 yards in 14 carries, scored the Panthers’ final touchdown on a 4-yard run early in the fourth quarter. Morgan picked up an extra two points late in the third quarter when an errant pass sailed past the Cromwell punter and through the end zone for a safety.
“That’s a very good football team,” said Morgan’s Kevin Sullivan, who had just participated in his first game as the Huskies’ head coach. “Their front seven is very good and their entire defense is fantastic.
“I thought we did a good job with some things tonight, but it’s pretty obvious that we’ve got a lot of little things that we need to work on — things like stupid penalties and bad reads.
“It might take some time, but we’ll get there. It’s a process.”
Nye finished his night by completing 15 of 35 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown with one interception. Garbinski and Fratamico each caught five passes for the Huskies for 99 and 41 yards, respectively.
After a bye week, Cromwell travels to North Branford on the night of Sept. 24. Morgan travels to Haddam-Killingworth next Friday.
CP: Williams 33-yard pass from Brisson (Cohen kick)
CP: Brisson 3-yard run (Cohen kick)
M: Garbinski 30-yard pass from Nye (pass failed)
CP: Brisson 4-yard run (Cohen kick)
CP: Lovelace 46-yard interception return (Hair pass from Brisson)
M: Safety (snap on punt sails out of the end zone)
CP: Hair 4-yard run (Cohen kick)