(Newtown CT) Losing the first one is always tough.
Two Friday nights in a row highly regarded, undefeated teams have squared off against Newtown at Blue and Gold Stadium. Both teams (Ansonia and Brookfield) left the stadium unhappy and no longer undefeated.
On this night it was Brookfield’s turn. The Bobcats (6-1) certainly made things interesting but fell short, 21-14, to the undefeated (7-0) Newtown Nighthawks on a cool Friday night.
With numerous reasons to be happy afterwards including; control of the South-West Conference, winning 28th straight regular season game, and winning 29 of last 31 games, NHS coach Steve George was under-happy afterwards. Why? In the closing minute, with Newtown in possession and Brookfield out of timeouts, a skirmish broke out after a play in front of the Newtown bench. According to reporters closer to the action, Newtown’s Jared Pearson was ejected and there was some pushing and shoving between the teams.
“What happened at the end was not characteristic of my team,” said Coach George. “I’m a little upset with them now.”
Meanwhile back at the game I was intending to describe! Newtown scored three straight touchdowns after Brookfield converted a fumble into an early score. Newtown had what I thought was a commanding 21-7 halftime lead. Brookfield, however, had the only score in the second half (8:56 of the 4th quarter) but never had a real threat for more, thereafter.
Both teams benefited from opponent miscues in getting their first TDs. Ethan Carpenter tried to return a punt in heavy Brookfield traffic and ended up fumbling. Matt Biondi recovered for the Bobcats.
Later, Bobby Drysdale (118 yards/1 TD) reached the Newtown end zone from five yards out for his 13th touchdown of the season at 8:14 of the first quarter.
Consecutive turnovers led to the first Newtown score. First Hafeez Yussuf intercepted a Jacob Burden pass intended for Julian Dunn at the Brookfield 16. Bobby Drysdale, however, fumbled the ball back to Newtown (Ryan Shaw) on the next play setting the Hawks up in terrific field position.
Less than a minute later (5:02) Nick Rubino rolled left untouched for a 4-yard TD. Bryce Mather added the kick to tie the score.
Early in the second quarter (11:14) Jaret DeVellis (7th TD) finished a long Newtown drive bouncing off Austin Reich to score from 3 yards out. The kick gave Newtown a 14-7 advantage.
Because Newtown was content to run the ball, and did often, fake handoffs gave QB Jacob Burden plenty of time to throw. Ethan Carpenter and Julian Dunn were spread wide to either side most of the game. Julian (6’3″) was being covered one-on-one by Hafeez Yussuf (5’9″).
Early in the game Julian’s passing route was straight down the right sideline. On Newtown’s 3rd TD drive, Julian ran an up-and-in and was wide open for a long gain. Later in the same drive, Julian had the time to add an “out” to the pattern and ended up alone in the right side of the end zone from 17 yards out at 5:27 of the second quarter. The completion to Julian was Jacob Burden’s 10th touchdown pass in 2014. The kick put Newtown further in front, 21-7.
Punting dominated the early going in the second half. I thought at the time that Newtown had the horses to get a few more scores and also could keep the visitors off the board the rest of the way.
The Brookfield defense, however, surprised me. It gave up yards and first downs but came up big when they needed to. Certainly Newtown penalties helped put the Nighthawks in bad field position in the second half.
One Newtown penalty (Jake Lambert – roughing the passer), was key in Brookfield’s fourth quarter TD drive. A heavy dose of Bobby Drysdale moved Brookfield to the Newtown 15. From there, QB Johnny Roscigno faked a handoff to Bobby going right and instead rolled left. There was a still a Hawks defender in the left side of the secondary but Johnny faked outside and then cut inside for a free lane to the end zone at 8:56 of the final quarter.
The Bobcats would get the ball back but there wasn’t time to grind with Bobby Drysdale and there also wasn’t enough time for QB Johnny Roscigno to find receivers.
The Bobcats burned timeouts late and would have gotten the ball back one last time with a minute left but Andrew Collins collided with punter Julian Dunn. The penalty gave the ball back to Newtown for the rest of the game.
Brookfield has now lost five straight times to Newtown. The talk afterwards by BHS coach Rich Angarano to his team was that, “We can play with this team,” and “We could face them again in the SWC championship game.”
Newtown defeated the Bobcats, 28-7, in last year’s title game. Julian Dunn caught two TDs in that one while Bobby Drysdale was limited to 43 yards.
Brookfield had only allowed 53 points in their first six games.
Bobby Drysdale (6’1″ – 200) is obviously the key to any team’s defensive schemes versus Brookfield. He had 27 touchdowns in 2013 and rushed for 2,096 yards. Gang tackling Bobby is essential as he added extra yards several times when in the grasp of one tackler. Bobby’s presence also set up the second Brookfield TD because the Newtown defense followed him and gave QB Johnny Roscigno plenty of room the other way.
I’ve seen Newtown twice now and can see why it is so hard to prepare for their offense. They are very content to take what a defense allows. NHS coach Steve George said afterwards that the play calling (many runs) may have looked conservative but, “It was just too tempting to run the ball.”
Ethan Carpenter was the blocker near punter Julian Dunn. His block on Andrew Collins may have had something to do with Andrew’s running into the kicker. Julian did a pretty good job of selling the hit.
Excellent Homecoming crowd as well as the usual spectacular halftime show.
(I can edit this blog so if there is an error please let me know so that I can correct it.)
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)