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Sophomore Garret Garbinski and the Morgan football team dropped a 23-6 road matchup against Valley Regional-Old Lyme in the opening game of the 2019 season on Sept. 13. Garbinski grabbed an interception on the Warriors’ first drive of the night. (Photo by Susan Lambert/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Alex Fratamico had some big receptions for the Huskies on the drive that resulted in a touchdown when the team took a defeat to Valley Regional-Old Lyme on Sept. 13. Pictured on the right is No. 52, Guiseppe Carpenter. (Photo by Susan Lambert/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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The Morgan and Valley Regional-Old Lyme (VR-OL) football teams marked the beginning of their 2019 season with a contest at Valley Regional High School on Sept. 13. The two Pequot Conference Sassacus Division rivals notched their first results of the season with the Warriors coming out on top in a 23-6 decision.
The Warriors ultimately came away with the win on the strength of a potent first-half offense and a stingy defense all game long. The VR-OL secondary limited Morgan’s ability to really air it out with junior Colbe Andrews recording pair of interceptions. Warriors Head Coach Tim King believed that much of his team’s success came down to the work of the offensive and defensive lines.
“At the beginning of the season I said that one of our strengths was our line, and it showed last night both offensive and defensively. We moved the ball on the ground very well. We lost both our running backs, so at one point we were a bit hobbled. It was difficult, but the linemen did a very good job,” said King. “Defensively they were stout at the point of attack. We got a bit worn down in the second half. A couple of kids got a bit dinged up. Once we get healthy again, we’ll get a nice rotation going.”
It was a rocky start for the Warriors, who received the kickoff and marched downfield. Morgan’s Garret Garbinski hauled in an interception at the Huskies’ 12-yard line to stop the drive. After that, Valley’s line backed Morgan into its own end zone and tackled senior quarterback Mike Zingarella for a safety to make it 2-0. The safety punt yielded great field position for Valley with Andrews reaching Morgan’s 36-yard line. VR-OL quarterback Jack Cox escaped danger and got a pass off to receiver Brian Rankin on a 3rd-and-10 situation to keep the drive alive. Running back Anthony Rosario closed the rest of the distance to the goal on a few more plays and punched it into the end zone. Brian Funk kicked the extra point to make it 9-0.
The Huskies just couldn’t get anything going against a stifling Warriors’ defensive front. VR-OL junior Tommy Burch had an impressive pass block behind the line of scrimmage, and then on the next play, junior Kyle Metz recovered a fumble to take possession at Morgan’s 21-yard line. On that drive, Valley got another big third-down play on a screen pass from Cox to Rosario for 12 yards to make it 1st-and-goal. Sophomore James Marsden subbed in at the quarterback taking a direct snap for a five-yard run. Then after getting to 4th-and-goal, Valley went for it and Marsden connected with Andrews to make it 16-0 after a successful Funk PAT.
Overall, Coach King was very impressed with his quarterback tandem. The two-headed monster under center proved effective against the Huskies.
“Jack was getting the rust off, and he lost a couple of players that he was familiar with, so it was a bit of timing and knowing where everyone going to be,” said King. “James has really come on. He’s quite an athlete, and he’s only going to get better. He’s very coachable, and he listens to every word you say.”
After a few unsuccessful drives back and forth, Valley mounted another march downfield in the second quarter. Cox connected with junior Carter Tiezzi on a couple of passes, and Rosario busted a 30-yard run to pick up significant ground. Ultimately, Rosario would score another touchdown on a three-yard play up the gut. Funk’s kick was good and Valley pulled further away, making it 23-0.
Coach King was pleased to see that his team adjusted well to the new system of play calling implemented this year. The new system along with some players out showed serious resilience from Valley.
“We put in a new system this year. We’re going with the wristband instead of the huddle. We only had a delay of game once, and the only reason we had that was because we were dealing with some injuries and were trying to get the right guys on the field,” said King. “We’ve been working on that in scrimmages, and I thought the kids did a good job picking it up. I was expecting more misplays. We had a couple, but that was to be expected. I was pretty impressed.”
After halftime, Morgan got some good drives downfield, and eventually scored. The Huskies ended up looking at a 3rd-and-32 situation and Zingarella threw a deep pass for an outstanding catch from senior Liam Whelan in double coverage for 40 yards. Then a combination of Zingarella rushes and catches from sophomore Alex Fratamico got the Huskies their only score of the game.
After that, both offenses ground to a halt. Morgan stopped Valley’s attack, backing the Warriors up to their end zone. Morgan Head Coach Peter Nye thought the game was a tug-of-war between halves.
“It was like an arm-wrestling match, and it was like they had our arm halfway down in the first half,” said Nye. “Then in the second half we had them pinned against their end zone. The defense played really great in the second half, and we got down to the red zone, but that’s when our woes on offense really got us.”
Morgan had difficulty with its running game and had to put the ball in the air, but in situations without much space to operate, options were limited. With a bye week upcoming, Coach Nye hopes that the Huskies can develop some more consistently effective sets on offense.
“In open space we were able to move it pretty solidly. We’re looking for that bread and butter play for our team,” Nye said. “We have the bye next week, and that’s something that we have to figure out.”
After Week 1, both teams have some things to figure out. VR-OL hopes to get back to full strength and put it’s best team forward, while Morgan tries to get more reps for its less experienced athletes. Coach Nye felt proud of the way his team competed even after falling behind by three scores in the first half, and that kind of spirit is a start to a successful team.
“It was good that even though we were down 23-0 in the first half, the kids kept their poise. Then in the third, we got a great catch from Liam and we got downfield and executed,” said Nye. “We have a lot of young guys. We have some sophomores in critical positions that we’re asking to do a lot. The fact that they did as well as they did is great. We’re going to do our best to be competitive regardless of our circumstances.”
The biggest thing is that there was plenty of football fever with fans out supporting both teams at the game. Coach King was happy to see plenty of support at home and the return of the Valley Regional cheer squad leading the way.
“I love our fans. We’re had a great fan base at the games year in and year out, and getting the cheerleaders back is wonderful,” said King “It’s great for the kids. The game is all about the kids and being able to have parents and people there for the sport is awesome. That’s what high school football is all about right there.”
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