Published November 17. 2013 4:00AM
Norwich — Norwich Free Academy spent the first 42 minutes trading blows with Stonington.
The Wildcats finally put the Bears away with a fourth-quarter flurry.
NFA scored 28 unanswered points in a span of 2 minutes and 44 seconds late in Saturday's game to win, 63-35, and qualify for the CIAC Class LL football playoffs.
Now that's how you qualify for states.
"Let's be honest - when you're in games like this, you find out what you're really about," NFA Jemal Davis said. "You want to be able to come away with a win, but you want to be able to say, 'How did we handle difficult situations? Are we able to pony-up and go out and perform?'
"We were able to do that."
Marcus Outlow ran 19 times for 228 yards and three touchdowns for the Wildcats (8-1), ranked ninth in The Day's Top 10 state coaches' poll.
Khaleed Exum-Strong added 12 carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
Harry Calmar ran 19 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns for the Bears (6-3), who are still in the Class M playoff hunt despite the loss. Zach Poirier added 14 carries for 120 yards and a score.
"We had a bad three minutes, from our play calls to our execution," Stonington coach A.J. Massengale said. "We just didn't get it done. Those three or four minutes in the fourth quarter we just didn't call good plays and we just didn't execute."
The two teams combined to score 14 touchdowns. That included a dizzying stretch in which five touchdowns were scored in over three minutes early in the third quarter.
Then tied at 35-35 in the fourth quarter, NFA got the ball back at the Bears' 43-yard line with over five minutes left in the game. Davis opted to have Outlow run the Wildcat.
The Boston College-bound tailback scored on the first play to give his team a 41-35 edge with 5:48 remaining.
"I read the fake, and I saw about three holes," Outlow said. "I wasn't sure which one to take. I kind of drifted off to one hole and cut back the other way."
NFA turned the Bears over on downs and ran the Wildcat again. It scored on one play again as Ramel Williams ran for a 29-yard touchdown.
"That Wildcat is a deadly formation," Outlow said. "You saw with Ramel scoring and with Khaleed scoring. If you key on me.. … you still have those guys to worry about."
Tuzar Skipper sacked Divante White on Stonington's next offensive play and forced a fumble. Calvin Green scooped the ball up and returned it for a 24-yard touchdown.
The Bears fumbled the ball away again on their next possession and NFA's Kyle Urbinati recovered at the Stonington 27.
Exum-Strong ran for a 25-yard touchdown to push NFA's lead to 63-35 with 3:04 left in the game.
"I give full credit to (Stonington)," Outlow said. "They always come out and play a tough game. That's a great group of guys over there, a great group of coaches, but it was good for us in the sense that we needed to keep ourselves composed and stay with our confidence that we always bring."