NORWICH – Norwich Free Academy trailed by just three points to start the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats allowed two late touchdowns and fell 31-14 to Wilton in their season opener Friday night at NFA Turf Field.
“The children fought a lot. It was a tough loss,” said NFA coach Erik Larka. “We battled through injuries and some adversity, but at the end of the day they outplayed us. They made a couple more plays than us and we couldn’t execute on offense and it came back to bite us.”
The Wildcats were without starting quarterback Colby Ayuyu, who suffered a broken hand in a fight with Hall.
Wildcats backup quarterback Gage Hinkley tied it at 7 with a 35-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
Wilton responded with a 25-yard field goal by Michael Hall and a 15-yard TD run by Peter Reyes to take a 17-7 halftime lead.
NFA opened the second half with a 14-play, 75-yard drive. Hinkley capped the drive with a beautiful 29-yard touchdown throw to Connor Gaughan on fourth-and-6 to make it 17-14.
The Wildcats committed two turnovers late in the fourth quarter that led to two Wilton touchdowns.
“We did a lot of good things tonight, but in the end it’s closing,” Hinkley said. “Those third-and-15s, those fourth-and-8s where we don’t make plays and let things slide and (Wilton) gets big passes and big runs. That is the difference.”
What does it mean
This was the first game of the NFA’s new training regimen. It was also another tough CIAC Football Alliance non-league loss for the Wildcats, who face some of the best FCIAC and SCC teams each season.
NFA trailed 17-14 and had possession at the Wilton 48-yard line with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats decided to try it on fourth-and-4, but Hinkley’s pass fell incomplete.
“We had the ball and we’re going for it,” Larka said. “I told the team that we scored there that we are winning the game.”
by the numbers
Wilton outscored NFA, 288-158.
Hinkley completed 7 of 20 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown.
The Wildcats held to 82 rushing yards.
Wilton’s Peter Reyes gained 55 yards on 13 carries and scored 2 TDs.
NFA’s Gage Hinkley: The youngster sprang into action at quarterback when starter Colby Ayuyu was injured last week. “I can’t let the team down, so as soon as I got the text, I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got five days to get ready.’ I did my best.”
Hinkley also handled clearance duties and made several big plays on defense.
they said it
“We are missing people and fighting adversity right now,” NFA coach Erik Larka said. “But you can’t let our defense be on the other side of the 50 too many times without eventually the team scoring. The defense bent and bent and then broke because the offense couldn’t move the ball.”
NFA hosts No. 6 Killingly on Friday. Killingly won his season opener 48-0 against Montville.
“We are at a crossroads in the second week,” Larka said. “Are we going to be men and be physical or are we going to turn around? We’ll find out next week. That will be the real test for the rest of the season.”