Published October 26. 2013 4:00AM
Griswold - Early each school day morning, several New London football players gather in a space behind the team room at the high school called "The Tunnel" for a voluntary film session.
The turnout varies. Some players bring breakfast.
They all bring a desire to improve.
They're seeing results from their hard work off and on the field.
New London posted its third straight victory on Friday night, beating Griswold 39-7. The Whalers have turned a disappointing 1-2 start into a promising 4-2 record.
Coach Duane Maranda is pleased with the way his team has responded to the early-season adversity.
"Our kids reacted very well to the adversity that we faced when we went through the two-game losing streak," Maranda said. "There was a tremendous amount of noise. We have a sign in our locker room that says, 'Keep the Noise Outside These Doors.'
"… When you have a problem in a family, you focus on fixing it and helping one another and keeping problems within our team and all the noise outside of it. That made us come together and made us create that chemistry and team bond. … We just kept improving and got healthier, which is big."
The Whalers certainly made it look easy Friday, blowing the game open with 26 second-quarter points. They ran just 12 plays in the first half and scored 33 points.
"We can always score quickly," said senior Jose Garcia, who accounted for three touchdowns. "Honestly, it's our choice whether we want to or not. Sometimes we come out a little sluggish. When we pick things up, everything is fine."
New London's longest scoring drive covered just four plays and ended with senior Orrin Parke's 48-yard touchdown run on the first series of the second half. He finished 121 yards and two touchdowns - his 59-yard run opened the scoring in the first quarter - on just seven carries. It was his third straight 100-yard rushing game.
Maranda inserted his second team on the second series of the third quarter. Quarterback Danny Maranda went 6-for-8 for 183 yards and three touchdowns.
"It was a good drive, though," Maranda said of the four play drive. "We just went on a game plan script and let them run it. Danny called the plays himself there. He works hard at it. He watches more film than anybody.
"We get to school every morning at 6:45. He's not the only one there. Other kids are there as well. … We watch film for a half hour to 35 minutes every single morning. It's not mandatory."
What is mandatory, at least in the minds of Whaler Nation, is that New London football maintains its winning tradition.
With help from lethal weapons like Jose Garcia (three touchdowns), the Whalers are marching toward another winning season.
The speedy Garcia put on a show Friday. He caught the first of his two touchdown passes in the second quarter, covering 24 yards. It came one play after Ashi Harkness' interception.
Garcia scored his last two touchdowns in almost rapid succession. He raced behind a lone defender and caught a 75-yard scoring strike with 7:55 left in the second quarter.
When Griswold was forced to punt on its possession, Garcia fielded a one-hopper and sprinted off on a 62-yard punt return for a 27-0 lead. Nico Ramos caught a 55-yard touchdown pass to close out the first-half scoring.
"I always like to read where my blockers are at before a punt," Garcia said. "Sometimes a bounce works to my advantage."
New London has to continue to improve to stretch its winning streak to four. Next up is Fitch.
Garcia believes the Whalers have the proper mindset to achieve their goals.
"We didn't lose to teams because they were better than us. We just took them too lightly from the start and dug ourselves in a hole," Garcia said. "We're definitely not (doing that anymore). I feel like we can play even better."
Griswold's David Jackson scored his team's only touchdown - a one-yard run in the fourth quarter - and rushed for 133 yards.