East Lyme - This was one rally which started off a bit un-rally-like.
The East Lyme High School football team, on opening night on its new turf field Friday, was penalized for a delay of game at the start of the second half for not coming out of the locker room on time.
Then Griswold onside kicked, which was followed on East Lyme's first possession of the half by a Griswold 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown by David Jackson, who, upon not hearing a whistle on the play stripped the ball on the 1-yard line and raced the other way.
"They were so excited to be home, they were missing their assignments," first-year East Lyme coach Rudy Bagos said. "... It's not so much my first win as I wanted these kids to be able to open this field up right. It's one of the things I harped on."
The final score was East Lyme 20, Griswold 7, an outcome which belied the fact the Vikings had just 13 yards of offense in the first half and did not score for the first three quarters.
Senior captain and running back Eric Stirtan finished with 20 carries for 167 yards and fourth-quarter touchdowns of 66 and 36 yards, with the Vikings' defense holding strong just long enough for the offense to find a methodical, productive rhythm.
Stirtan's 66-yarder with 6 minutes, 5 seconds remaining in the game - he lost a shoe on the play - gave East Lyme a 13-7 lead. Following an interception by East Lyme's Dean Beebe, Stirtan scored from 36 yards out with 3:52 remaining to ice it.
He also received the Vikings' rustic looking gigantic hammer for making the first play of the game on defense, forcing a fumble on Griswold's opening play from scrimmage.
"It was very different emotions going on," said Stirtan of what went on in the locker room at halftime. "I mean, our defense was solid, but our offense was not putting it up. We had so many personal fouls ... I told all my guys just keep their mouths shut, show nothing but love, hit them but don't say a word."
Linebacker Jacob Gordon added two sacks for the Vikings (1-1), with the defense keeping pressure on Griswold quarterback Adam Davis, and Mark Chmielewski had an interception.
East Lyme opened the second half with a 66-yard drive before Jackson's 99-yard touchdown run that made it 7-0 Griswold.
The Vikings, which made adjustments at the half, Bagos said, then were forced to start all over with nothing to show for the improvements.
With Griswold starting its next possession from the 6, however, a punt gave East Lyme the ball at the Wolverines' 25 and the Vikings capitalized.
Hunter Waido scored on a 1-yard run and Tyler Hudson kicked the extra point to tie things 7-7.
"I thought it was going to overtime or going to be a 7-7 tie," Bagos said.
Following the win, the Vikings took off for the student section at the end zone farthest from the school, celebrating their new home with a few friends.
"We've just got to win," said Gordon of the Vikings' game plan. "To open the field, we just need to get the win."