(Newtown CT) “Julian Dunn has done some amazing things for Newtown football,” said Nighthawks coach Steve George on Tuesday night after the game.
It’s probably a line that the NHS coach has used regularly when asked about the talented senior.
Julian was key to the Newtown victory over Masuk, 28-7, in the rescheduled Thanksgiving Eve game.
In the midst of a terrific catching/kicking/defending performance, Julian slipped into the Connecticut high school record book. He entered the game tied with Aaron Hernandez (Bristol/Florida/Patriots) on the all-time list of touchdown catches with 47 but by game’s end had added two more to his total. With at least one more game left, and possibly two, his totals could increase.
The final score in this game was very misleading. At first glance you’d suspect that undefeated Newtown dominated 7-4 Masuk. You would be wrong……….at least during the first half. The second half? All Newtown.
Because Newtown was in the South-West Conference championship game on Saturday, they only had a few days to get ready for Masuk. The Panthers, on the other hand, had over a week.
“Joe Lato (Masuk head coach) is one of the best coaches in the state,” said Coach George. “We knew he was going to have some funky stuff going on.”
And sure enough he did. It seemed to me that Newtown spent most of the first half trying to figure out where to line up defensively against a variety of formations. Underdog Masuk was not only able to move the ball but also overwhelmed the Nighthawks defensively with an assortment of blitzes.
Things got so bad that after one lengthy first-half Masuk drive, their fans began to chant, “Over-rated, Over-rated.”
In that dismal first half, Newtown QB Jacob Burden was sacked and injured. Sophomore Justin Dunn came on and his first pass bounced off of the normally reliable hands of his brother Julian. Things were that bad!
Masuk threatened to score in the first quarter but the drive petered out at the Newtown 19.
In the second quarter the Panthers took the lead. A fake punt by Newtown failed and the visitors from Monroe had a short field to work with. The big play in the scoring drive was a nifty 25-yarder by quarterback Zach Kaufman. Zach started left and then cut back across the middle of the field. Sophomore Nick Dellapiano finished the job for Masuk running a reverse to the right from seven yards out at 8:16.
The second half was a whole new ballgame! Masuk’s 7-0 halftime lead vanished on Newtown’s first possession and the Nighthawks had answers for the Panthers “funky” formations thereafter.
Julian Dunn jumped ahead of Aaron Hernandez in TD receptions on that first series. Julian lined up on the right and slanted into the middle. His brother Justin’s pass hit him in full stride. Julian (6-3/230) bounced off safety Bryan Acevedo for the 16-yard record-setting tally and the score was tied after the extra point.
With the score now tied, Masuk took a huge chance on 4th down deep in their own territory. Coach Lato said afterwards that, “he saw the momentum changing and wanted to stop it.” Keeping a drive alive at the Masuk 34 on a 4th-and-one seemed do-able after a great first half, but after a timeout, an inside run was stopped cold.
Newtown quickly capitalized on the field-position gift with a nice run by sophomore Hunter Cobb setting up the Nighthawks at the Masuk 10. It wasn’t hard to figure out what would happen next: Julian Dunn slant over the middle. Newtown was now up 14-7 with 6:32 remaining in the second quarter.
Masuk had bad field position most of the second half. A short punt early in the final quarter, followed by a long Hunter Cobb run, had the Panthers on the Masuk doorstep. Two straight runs by Nick Rubino got him into the end zone for his 13th TD of the season.
Worse field position set up another punt for Masuk on their next possession. Senior Ethan Carpenter collected Bryan Acevedo’s punt at the Masuk 39 and shot straight up the wide-open middle. He was instantly alone and ended up with two blockers nearby, with no one to block, as he streaked across the goal line.
Ethan’s TD was at 7:29 and put the Newtown at the final score of 28-7.
Running back Jaret DeVellis was in uniform for Newtown but didn’t play. “Jaret could have played but we wanted to do the right thing with him and give his ankle more time to heal,” said Coach George. I watched Jaret in pregame and, despite his best efforts, he still wasn’t running without limping.
QB Jacob Burden didn’t return after his injury to his non-throwing left shoulder in the second quarter. “Jacob could have come back,” added Coach George.
Good to see the players from both teams interacting pleasantly after the game.
Coach George downplayed Julian’s record breaking by saying that, “the type of person he is is even more important as far as I’m concerned.”
Weather was cold but with no wind.
The impending snowstorm led to the game date change. Coach George broke the news to his team afterwards that there wouldn’t be any school Wednesday.
I continue to be very impressed with the performances of the Newtown dance team and cheerleaders. Their state-wide recognition is well deserved.
(This blog is easily corrected. Let me know.)
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)