Panthers lose to Stratford


The Pomperaug Panthers fell to Stratford High School Friday night by a score of 27-7. Despite a strong 2-0 start to the season, this was the third loss in a row for the Panthers. It dropped their overall record to 2-3 on the season.

Pomperaug started off the game fast with an opening-drive touchdown. Quarterback Joe Lacava hit running back Mike Curcio with a 3-yard pass to cap off the drive and put the Panthers up 7-0.

On Stratford’s first offensive possession, the Panthers forced the Red Devils into a three-and-out drive thanks to a strong defensive effort from players like Troy Sullivan and James Christiano.

Pomperaug was showing promise on their second offensive possession of the evening with a few long runs from Curcio and a long pass connection from Lacava to Curcio. However, the drive stalled deep in Stratford territory. Coach James Reed decided to go for it on fourth and five, but the Panthers did not convert and turned the ball over on downs.

Stratford then had another three-and-out possession thanks to a 5-yard sack from Christiano and Devin Polomski. When Stratford went to punt the ball on the fourth down, a Panther player accidentally touched the ball, so Stratford got the ball back.

After that, the Red Devils were able to quickly tie the game at 7-7. This was due to two plays from running back David Davidson, who had a 13-yard run followed by a 42-yard touchdown run.

On Pomperaug’s next offensive possession, Curcio was able to pick up a fumbled kick-off return and carry it all the way to the Panther’s 47-yard line. After that, Pomperaug was unable to really move the ball. Griffin Kutzner’s great punt pinned Stratford deep in their own territory at the 8-yard line.

Thanks to long runs of 16 and 30 yards, along with two 15-yard personal foul penalties, Stratford suddenly had the ball at the Pomperaug four. Kevin Nadler and Sean Daily were able to stop Stratford on first and goal, but the Red Devils scored on the next play thanks to a 5-yard quarterback keep by Stratford’s Gueber Docteur. Stratford missed the extra point so the score remained 13-7.

Late in the second quarter, Pomperaug had the ball on Stratford’s 12-yard line due to a turnover on downs. The Panthers were unable to move the ball and actually lost 5 yards due to a penalty, so they attempted a field goal with 38 seconds remaining in the half. On the attempt, the snap was botched and despite holder Doug Schmiedel’s best efforts, Pomperaug was unable to come away with more points before halftime.

Once Stratford received the ball at the start of the second half, they didn’t seem to want to give it up. The Red Devils went on a scoring drive that took up nearly half of the third quarter and was capped off by a 26-yard touchdown run from Docteur.

Pomperaug’s offense seemed to stall in the third quarter. Lacava was pressured heavily by Stratford’s defense and had some passes batted down by defensive end Marquess Daniels and defensive lineman Mark Acevedo. Early in the game, Curcio was able to find running lanes, but after halftime he could not seem to find those same gaps.

The Panthers found themselves trailing 20-7 entering the final quarter. Stratford’s Docteur put the game away with a 16-yard touchdown run to put the Red Devils up 27-7 with 6:11 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Pomperaug made some late offensive efforts in the fourth quarter despite being down by 20 points. Lacava was able to hook up with Christiano for a 45-yard completion, but the Panthers were unable to move the ball after that completion and eventually turned it over on downs.

The Panthers final offensive possession again saw them driving the ball down the field thanks to a few hook-ups from Lacava to wide receiver Nick Catuccio. Once the drive reached deep into Stratford territory, the Red Devils swarming defense once again took over, and Pomperaug turned the ball over on downs one final time.

The game was an extremely physical matchup. At one point during the game, Christiano appeared to have hurt his ankle, while on the Stratford side Davidson and Daniels both had to leave the game for a time with ankle injuries. Defensive back Ethan Brockelschen was knocked out of the game early with an undisclosed injury and did not return.

Stratford was unable to run a few plays before kneeling down to run out the clock. The game was the third win in a row for the Red Devils, who started the season 0-2 and now stand at 3-2. They’ll play Watertown Oct. 17.

Pomperaug next plays Friday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. at Holy Cross. Their next home game is on Halloween, Oct. 31, at 7 p.m., when they play Brookfield.


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