(Newtown CT) No doubt Ansonia’s 48-game win streak was a motivator as Newtown prepped for the game.
That “motivation” ended after the Nighthawks dropped the Chargers, 14-8, on a mild Friday night before a cast of thousands (three at least).
Asked about the significance of the victory afterwards, NHS coach Steve George dropped, “We won,” and, “We’re 6-0,” on the gathered media.
The week of media attention repeated the size of Ansonia’s streak and how one more win would enable the Chargers to tie Cheshire for the state record. Lost in that concentration was the fact that Newtown (6-0) had won 27 of their last 29 games including 26 straight regular season games.
The point? These were TWO good teams both used to winning whether a streak was involved or not.
When the game ended Newtown celebrated as if they had won something more than a regular season game while Ansonia fans/players wept in disappointment.
Newtown moved to a 14-0 lead late in the third quarter and you wondered if they might double that score in the final frame against the tiring Chargers.
But Ansonia (5-1) quarterback Jai’Quan McKnight tossed a terrific TD spot-pass to Tyler Bailey with ten minutes left. When Jai’Quan squirmed in for two extra points the Chargers were in position to make things interesting the rest of the way.
But the Newtown defense, despite (“way too many mistakes/penalties” – Coach George) prevailed in Ansonia’s final two possessions to get the win.
For certain, the Nighthawks defense kept the visitors from running organized offense most of the evening. Ansonia QB Jai’Quan McKnight, however, seemed at times to be more comfortable improvising than running set offense.
Jai’Quan paid a heavy price several times dropping back to pass getting nailed by Ben Mason and Nick Samuelson on separate occasions. Nick’s hit ended the first half.
Two keys to the Newtown win: (1) depth, and (2) team speed. Most of the Chargers played both ways including all their playmakers. There was no rest for them. The media during the week attempted to describe the matchup as Newtown’s size versus Ansonia’s speed. Chargers coach Tom Brockett wasn’t buying it, “I thought coming in that man-for-man they might be faster than us. They never let us break anything big.”
To back up Coach Brockett’s point, I had several pictures of Chargers breaking down sidelines with no Newtown defenders in front of them. Each time Newtown players closed fast from the middle to angle the Ansonia players out-of-bounds before there was a breakaway.
No question Ansonia missed having Arkeel Newsome in their backfield. Arkeel ended his Chargers career with the Connecticut state record in rushing yards. He is now at UConn.
Those planning to attend this game were warned to get there early and many bought into it. I was there an hour early and ended up parking behind the high school. Leaving afterwards? I was on the field afterward recording interviews for at least a half hour. When I returned to my car none of the cars around me had yet moved.
The Chargers didn’t arrive until 35 minutes before game time………at least I thought it was all of them. I was talking to an Ansonia fan and he asked me where the rest of the team was. The second bus didn’t arrive until about 20 minutes before game time. The “arrive early” word didn’t reach Ansonia?
The Nighthawks scored in the first quarter. Jared Pearson caught a pass to get Newtown to the Ansonia 20. Several plays later Jared took a direct snap and, instead of following the flow to the right, shot straight up the middle. The Ansonia defense bit for the flow and Jared ran nearly unnoticed into the end zone at 1:13. Bryce Mather’s kick was good.
Nick Rubino put together two straight solid runs deep in Ansonia territory in the third quarter to notch Newtown’s second score. Nick, who was in the game in place of starter Jaret DeVellis, carried a defender into the end zone. Bryce Mather had his second PAT.
The Chargers cut into the 14-point deficit early in the final quarter. In pregame I watched quarterback Jai’Quan McKnight throw pass after pass to a spot near the corner of the goal-line. No question in my mind that he had the arm and accuracy. The trouble during the game was lack of time to even look to throw most of the time. Somehow, early in the 4th quarter Jai’Quan found the time and sure enough passed to the spot near the goal line. Teammate Tyler Bailey ran under the ball closely defended by Joe Santella. The ball arrived as Tyler and Joe collided. Down went Joe as Tyler caught the ball and finished the yard or so into the end zone.
Jai’Quan improvised his way into the end zone over the right side to get Ansonia within six points with plenty of time (ten minutes) remaining. But on this day the Newtown defense took charge the rest of the way and ran their regular season streak to 27.
Newtown nearly scored a razzle-dazzle TD in the second quarter. QB Jacob Burden rolled left and handed off to Jared Pearson running to the right. Jacob kept on running around the left end while Jared suddenly stopped and tossed a pass in Jacob’s direction. Jacob was as wide open as you’ll ever get in a football game but Jared’s throw was high.
What a show at halftime! It was twenty minutes of wonderfully choreographed and executed performance that you should have to pay extra for……..it’s that well done.
I can make changes in this blog so if I have been inaccurate please let me know and I’ll do the necessary editing.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)