(Monroe CT) Even the winning coach wasn’t totally pleased.
It was shades of Patriots coach Bill Belichick: “We won but………..”
Newtown finished their regular season undefeated (10-0) with a 17-2 win over Masuk on Wednesday night at surprisingly “balmy” Monroe.
The Hawks now move on to a home playoff game on Tuesday.
The Panthers (6-4) are left to wonder what might have been against Newtown if they hadn’t ended four possessions with giveaways.
“It comes down to turnovers,” said Masuk coach Joe Lato post-game. “We were thirty yards out and we put the ball on the ground…….and so it goes.”
The Hawks didn’t match Masuk’s turnover total, but they had other problems. “We haven’t played a complete game yet,” explained Newtown coach Bob Pattison. “We at times hurt ourselves. We had penalties, mental mistakes, and ‘so-and-so didn’t hear the calls.’ It makes it hard to win when you do those things.”
But Newtown did win, and Coach Pattison’s concerns will carry over into the tournament game ahead.
After an empty first half, the Hawks scored on their first possession of the second half. Junior Luke Hannon (109 yards) covered the final two yards and senior Devin O’Connell kicked the extra point.
The important play in that drive was a 4th down conversion from the Masuk 30. QB Brandon Lombardo, with a ton of time, found senior Jack Zingaro in the middle of the field and the Hawks were set up for their first score near the goal line.
That touchdown-producing sequence impacted the final outcome, according to MHS coach Lato: “It was third-and-eight and we nearly had #6 (Brandon Lombardo) sacked for a big loss but he floated an incompletion. That left them with a makeable 4th down. On the next play he scrambled and hit the kid on a crossing route.”
When Newtown coach Pattison referenced “needing to get better” he wasn’t talking about his defense. It was solid throughout.
And it needed to be after a third-quarter bad snap resulted in a safety (5:03) as senior Colin Meropoulos dropped quarterback Jack Street in the end zone. The Newtown lead was now only 7-2 with seventeen minutes of playing time left.
But the Hawks defense took charge the rest of the way. “We harp on finishing strong,” said senior James Knox afterwards. He and his teammates did just that.
To James it was “finishing strong.” To MHS coach Lato it was “too many turnovers.”
However you look at it, Newtown collected ten points the rest of the way and Masuk was shut down.
The Hawks caused fumbles (recovered one) and their pressure on quarterback Deric DeAngelis led to two interceptions (Jack Zingaro, Will Swierbut) in the final 1 ½ quarters.
“Our defense bailed us out,” explained Coach Pattison.
“We didn’t execute the way we wanted to in the first half, but we battled back,” said Hawk running back Connor Breslin. “We found ways to overcome obstacles. Our linemen are amazing. It’s easy to run with them up front.”
It certainly helped the Newtown rushing game to have fullback Jared Dunn (6-3/220) ushering Connor and teammate Luke Hannon on sweeps.
Jared (All-SWC 2018) made a nice catch in the first half and tallied Newtown’s final touchdown with a two-yard dive that barely broke the goal line plane.
The Panthers lost starting quarterback Nick Saccu to an ankle injury late in the third quarter. The sophomore’s ability to run the Masuk offense was missed down the stretch. Nick was 15/21 for 211 yards and three touchdowns in the Panthers most recent game against Weston.
“Masuk gave us some looks that we weren’t expecting,” said Coach Pattison. “They created some confusion and we had to make some adjustments. A lot of guys touch the ball in their triple option and sometimes the ball gets on the ground.”
James Knox: “It was an amazing game. It’s always great to play in front of friends and teammates. We know every year that this game is going to be a tough one. Our second-half adjustments really kicked in.”
James has committed to Columbia. “It has a great variety of majors. I’m leaning toward engineering or business.”
Newtown junior Pat Boyle recovered two fumbles.
Devin O’Connell had a 21-yard field goal in the 4th quarter.
Newtown has now won the SWC four straight years. They also haven’t lost to an SWC opponent since 2017.
Newtown now leads the Thanksgiving series 14-9-1.
Both teams were held to their lowest point totals of the season. Newtown came into the Masuk game with four straight 40+ point games.
Coach Lato: “I wish we could have gotten more out of this season. These great kids deserved that.”
Remarkable weather. A little drizzle early but temperatures were in the upper 40s with no wind. Two years ago, after the game at Masuk, I was certain that I would require post-game frost bite care!
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)