Category Archives: Newtown

Newtown’s defense creates turnovers leading to 17-2 win over Masuk

Newtown defenders signal another Masuk turnover

Chris Tillotson (2) leads Masuk onto the field

(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.”

Jeff Nugent (7) drops Brandon Lombardo (6)

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.

Jared Dunn (33) and Will Swierbut (1) bury QB Nick Saccu

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.

Safety signaled

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.

Linebacker Jared Dunn (33) loses his helmet

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.

Newtown interception by Jack Zingaro (4)

“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.

Jeff Nugent (7) tackles Luke Hannan (9)

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.”

Newtown linemen Jacob Riley (52) and Matt Heinlein (56)

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.)

Ball on the ground. Pat Boyle (81) about to make a recovery

Brandon Lombardo (6)

Chris Tillotson (2) intercepts a pass intended for Riley Ward (13)

Connor Breslin (20) follows Jared Dunn (33)

Deric DeAngelis (19) pressured

Ian Jackson (3) bats down a pass

Jared Dunn makes a catch

Luke Hannan (9) chased by Dan Verrastro (22), Colin Meropoulos (55) and Thomas Palermos (50)

Luke Hannon (9) finds open field

Pat Boyle (81) blocks during Devin O’Connell field goal attempt








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Newtown avoids upset defeating Masuk 21-14

Newtown wins the South-West Conference

Dan Mason ( touchdown, 126 yards)

(Newtown CT) Everything favored a big Newtown win.

The respective records; Newtown 9-0, Masuk 5-4.

Experience; Masuk had two returning starters.

But it turned out to be a surprisingly close game won by Newtown, 21-14, on a chilly Wednesday night at Blue-and-Gold Stadium.

Nolan McCarter (9) and Dan Verastro (22) bring down Dan Mason

Newtown built up a two-score lead late in the third quarter but were seriously threatened in the final quarter.

MHS narrowed the margin to one score with ten minutes left and nearly tied the game five minutes later.

But on this uncomfortably cold evening the home team had the defensive goods to withstand the challenge.

With the victory, the Hawks (10-0) finish an undefeated regular season and are heading for the playoffs.  However, much of the chatter afterwards was about Masuk’s play in the losing effort.

“They (Masuk) came to play,” explained Newtown captain Matt Dubois afterwards.  “They played with heart.”

QB Thomas Juliano (15) in the pocket

The Panthers (5-5) pulled off numerous long gainers and found ways to hold Newtown to only three touchdowns.

That “only” makes a little more sense when you realize that Newtown came into the game averaging forty-five points per outing.

Asked how his team pulled this off defensively, Masuk coach Joe Lato said simply, “Our kids are tough.  They did what Monroe kids do.”

I asked a Masuk coach pre-game if he thought that the team could make a game of it.  His reply?  “We’ll find out in a hurry.”

A big run by Dan Mason (126 yards, 1 touchdown) on Newtown’s opening possession put the Hawks deep into Masuk territory.

NHS ended up with a short yardage 4th down on the M21.  Quarterback sneak made sense and that was the play.  Newtown QB Luke Mellilo hit the middle and looked wrapped up, but suddenly broke loose and off to the end zone he went.  Devin O’Connell kicked the extra point.  Newtown 7 Masuk 0) – 8:52.

Luke Mellilo (10) scores the first Newtown TD

I must admit that, based on the records, I thought that this was the beginning of a long night for the visitors.  Consider me wrong on that one!

My inclinations didn’t change right away.

On Masuk’s first possession, they fumbled (Kevin Luke recovered for Masuk), and struggled to move the ball.

But suddenly that changed on a harmless side-pitch to Dan Verastro on the right.  There looked to be plenty of Newtown defense in the area but that didn’t matter as Dan cut to the middle and then to the outside.  Off he went for a 44-yard touchdown.  Nolan McCarter kicked the extra point.  Newtown 7, Masuk 7 (6:34).

Dan Verastro (22) finishes TD run

I think that that touchdown alerted Masuk that they could play with Newtown and told the Hawks that the Panthers wouldn’t be going easily into the frigid night.

And that was the way it went.

Newtown regained the lead in the second quarter.  Senior Dan Mason, who mainly pounds away in the middle, swept left and got a step on everyone.  Dan Verastro was able to run Dan down at the Masuk two.  Dan Mason, who had two TDs last Thanksgiving, covered the final two yards up the middle.  Newtown 14, Masuk 7 (5:30).

Dan Mason (7) in the middle in from two yards

The Hawks tried two field goals during the remainder of the half.  The second Devin O’Connell attempt, with one second left, led to one of the most exciting plays of this game.  The attempt was blocked, and the kick floated to Masuk’s Ian Jackson at the one-yard line.  Ian started right and then changed his mind and went left.  I was in the end zone behind the runback and Ian had at least five blockers in front of him as he headed up the field.  Fortunately for Newtown, one of their players caught Ian at midfield to end the half.

In the third quarter, a 4th down gamble by Masuk failed but Newtown couldn’t capitalize.  Later, a Masuk fumble was recovered by Jared Dunn on the Masuk 29.  A tough Masuk holding penalty moved NHS closer and Jared covered the final fifteen yards up the middle.  Devin O’Connell kicked the extra point.  Newtown 21 Masuk 7 (2:47).

Jared Dunn (33) heads for the end zone

Newtown coach Bobby Pattison: “We have to be able to execute.  We ran that play that Jared scored on before and it didn’t work.  Later (on the scoring play) when we ran it correctly it worked.”

I have to admit that at this point, down by two touchdowns, I thought that the wheels were finally off of Masuk.

Into the 4th quarter we went and a wind-blown punt (Jack Mulligan) pinned Masuk deep.  Then there was a near-safety as Kevin Luke barely escaped the end zone.

Kevin Luke (7) swarmed near the end zone by Newtown defenders

Once again, Masuk, given up for dead, was far from it.

Senior Thomas Juliano stood in the end zone and had the arm and accuracy to get a throw to Chris Tillotson behind defenders Joe Paggett and Will Swierbut.  It was a footrace to the other end won by Chris.  Noel McCarter kicked the extra point.  Newtown 21 Masuk 14 (10:05).

Chris Tillotson (2) on a 99-yard reception

Plenty of time for the Panthers but this was where the Hawks showed me why they have been so successful this season: defense.

“I think we had some more big plays left but we never got to them,” said MHS coach Joe Lato.

Matt Dubois drops QB Thomas Juliano

“It was our defense that won the game,” surmised Matt Dubois.  And who could argue based on what Newtown did over the final ten minutes of the game.

I recall three Masuk possession in the last six minutes.  Each ended with standout Newtown defense.

  • Will Swierbut caught up to Henry Minnick who had gotten behind the Newtown defense and saved a TD.
  • Zack Loomis sacked QB Thomas Juliano on 4th down at the Newtown 20.
  • Joe Paggett intercepted a Masuk pass in the closing minute to end the Panthers final possession.

The Hawks had only given up thirty-four points all season and their late-game big plays showed how they were able to do that.

Jared Dunn (33) recovers a fumble

“Our defense had some big stands at the end,” recalled Newtown coach Bobby Pattison.

Ahead are the Division LL playoffs for Newtown.  “We’ve got states starting next Tuesday,” said Matt.  “We’ll see who we’re playing on Thursday.”

Masuk reached the Division L championship game last season.

College plans? Matt Dubois: “I am going to go to Johns Hopkins (Baltimore MD) to play football.  They’re a good program and are in the playoffs now.  I visited in the spring and liked it.”  Matt told me he was uncertain as to what courses he’ll take.  He was looking forward to joining the Blue Jays in 2019.

Masuk coach Joe Lato talks to his team afterwards

Coach Pattison: “We started too many times behind the stakes because of penalties.  You can’t take anything for granted in this conference.  The kids from Masuk are good.  They played a tough schedule and are a quality team.  That tackle (by Will Swierbut) saved a touchdown and was a key play.  He (Coach Lato) probably would have gone for two points.  We made mistakes and we need to clean them up to do well in the playoffs.”

Newtown has won the South-West Conference seven straight times and they have the same number of consecutive wins over Masuk.

Dan Mason finished the regular season with 1196 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns.

Many folks helped clear the stadium of snow after the November 15th storm.  Noticed that a lot of the snow was piled on the Masuk sidelines.

Good lighting at Blue-and-Gold but the cold breeze was tough.  The post-game clearout was almost a stampede!

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Chris Tillotson

Chris Tillotson (2) end zone defense

Chris Tillotson (Masuk) brought down by Joe Paggett (Newtown)

Dan Mason (7) and Mike Loomis (54)

Dan Mason (7) chased down the sidelines

Dan Verastro (22) chased by Jared Dunn (33)

Dan Verastro (22) follows David Canas (56)

Devin O’Connell’s last-second field goal attempt

Hannan’s (Luke and Jack)

James Knox (99) chases Thomas Juliano (15)

Jaren Dunn (33) raised the ball after scoring

Newtown managers

Mason’s (Dan)

AJ Mennona (75) post-game

Masuk gangs up on Dan Mason

Dubois’ (Matt)

Mellilo’s (Luke)

Near Newtown completion in Masuk end zone

Newtown celebrates first TD

Zeller’s (Joe)

Outcome reality sets in

Rick’s (Miles and Easton)




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Emma Curtis leads Newtown by Cheshire 3-0 in girls soccer

Emma Curtis had a goal and an assist for Newtown

Emma Curtis shoots past GK Seymone Rosenberg

(Newtown CT) It was all that Cheshire coach James Luis would talk about afterwards: Emma Curtis.

“We played against a very special player. She (Emma Curtis) dominated the game and beat us.  That’s it.  End of story.”

Emma Curtis had a goal and an assist in Newtown’s 3-0 win over Cheshire under the lights on Saturday night.

The Nighthawks (8-1-2) have now won five straight and are unbeaten in their last seven games.

Julia Hendrick in on GK Julianna Stavola

The shutout went to sophomore goalkeeper Julianna Stavola.

“Our ability to defend has been a staple of the program over the last 10-12 years,” said Newtown coach Marc Kenney.  “I don’t think as much about the defensive part of the game because I have confidence in what we can do.”

The Rams (5-3-3) did put some pressure on Julianna Stavola after the 3-goal cushion was in place and NHS had shifted in reserves.

Senior Emma Curtis had everyone’s attention from the get-go.  Two minutes into the game she broke loose down the right side for a clean, low shot that gave the home team the quick lead.

Kayla Agostinelli (16) and Katie Sailer (10)

“She took advantage of us from beginning to end,” said Coach Luis.  “We were aware of her coming into the game (Emma was all-state last year) but despite our efforts she was able to turn on us and get good shots on goal.”

It was a perfect start as far as Emma Curtis was concerned. “Cheshire is a team we’re not as familiar with.  We wanted to set the tone right away.”  Mission accomplished.

The Rams didn’t go away despite the one-goal deficit.

Ten minutes into the second half, however, the Rams were put away by two Nighthawks’ scores in little over a minute.

Both second-half goals were off set pieces.  “We’ve been really, really good on set pieces this season,” explained Coach Kenney.  “We’ve scored a bunch of goals off corner kicks and we’re not afraid to head the ball.”

Sydney Howard heads for the right corner

Junior Sydney Howard unleashed a textbook cross from the right corner.  The cross was far enough out that Cheshire GK Seymone Rosenberg couldn’t reach it.  Past her it went and onto the wide-open, waiting foot of freshman Ally McCarthy.  This was at 31:31 of the 2nd half.

More textbook offense in the third Newtown tally.  This time it was a corner kick.

“We work a lot in practice on corner kicks,” explained Emma Curtis.  “We always look for certain players in the center to get a head on it.”  Emma failed to mention the actual corner kick which was her doing and which landed in the middle of a cluster of her onrushing teammates.

One of the teammates was junior Karsen Pirone who drove a header into the net.

Karsen Pirone (6) gets her head on a perfect corner kick

Karsen Pirone (6) after heading the ball in

The third score was at 30:21.

Pressure on Newtown GK Julianna Stavola

Newtown GK Julianna Stavola was tested point-blank late in the game but stood her ground to keep the shutout.  NHS has allowed only five goal in eleven games.

Can Newtown stay on the good roll they’re on?  Check back next Friday.  Why?  The Nighthawks have games Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.  “Next week is rough,” said Coach Kenney.  “We just have to roll up our socks and play hard.”

When I interview seniors I usually ask them about their college plans.  This is what Emma told me: “I was looking at schools for soccer, but I may just not play.  I’ll have to see what’s out there.  If I go to a smaller school I would probably play but at a big school I would do club soccer.”

Keeley Kortze (5), Paige Perez (7), and Katie Sailer (10)

Coach Kenney: “Emma is super talented.  Her ability to create separation and get in on breakaways for goals has been a key to our success this season.”

Newtown was 13-2-1 last year while Cheshire had a 10-6-3 record.

Both teams are in the LL Division.  Newtown is in the South-West Conference.  Cheshire is in the Southern Connecticut Conference.

Cheshire had won four straight before tonight’s loss.

It was a fast-moving game with few whistles on a crisp night.

The surface at the Blue-and-Gold Stadium is fast.

Cassidy Keaney (3) blocks an attacker as Seymone Rosenberg saves

One of the adventures of covering high school games is identifying players.  Those of us taking pictures WANT to get the names right.  Sometimes the help we get is minimal.

Rosters online often say one thing while the rosters at the game say another.  Cheshire’s roster online tells me that #5 is Julia Hendrick.  The roster I got at last night’s game doesn’t have a #5.  #5 of Cheshire had a direct shot on GK Julianna Stavola and I had a picture of that action. I’m going with the shooter being Julia Hendrick.

Newtown has a roster online that has Hannah Daly listed as #10.  The roster at the game has her as #2.  That roster online has duplicate numbers.

Cheshire has uniforms without numbers on the front.  Imagine the difficulty that creates for a photographer trying to identify a picture.

Despite all that, a game was covered, and pictures were taken.  I hope with a degree of accuracy.

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Shot wide

Newtown celebrates a goal two minutes into the game

Loose ball

GK Julianna Stavola dives for a ball in close

Izzy Dziura (4), Emma Curtis, GK Seymone Rosenberg

Hannah Daly

Emma Curtis shoots at Seymone Rosenberg

Emma Curtis in the middle of two Cheshire defenders

Battle for control

Ally McCarthy after scoring the second goal nicely set up by Sydney Howard

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Pomperaug starts fast and wins Three’s for Charity Tournament 47-35 over Newtown

Tourney MVP Maggie Lee was 12-for-12 from the foul line

Ally McCormack and Karli Opalka with championship plaque

(Newtown CT) Newtown dug themselves a huge hole in the first half and never fully recovered, losing 47-35 to Pomperaug in the finals of the 3’s for Charity tournament on Thursday night.

Pomperaug (5-0) continues undefeated while Newtown (4-1) suffers its first loss.

Minus injured point guard Rylee Mulligan, the Hawks went scoreless for over nine minutes of the first half while the Panthers collected fifteen unanswered points. The 17-2 deficit early in the second period was the cushion Pomperaug needed to ride out comeback attempts by Newtown in the second half.

“It was a tale of two halves,” explained NHS coach Jeremy O’Connell afterwards.  “Pomperaug is loaded with talent.  If you get down to them early it’s a tough hill to climb.”

Ally McCormack passes from the floor as Jackie Matthews defends

The Hawks did get within eight a couple of times in the second half, the last time being 39-31 with two minutes left.  From there on in tourney MVP Maggie Lee clinched the outcome by answering every NHS possession with free throws.

Maggie was a remarkable 12-for-12 from the line and ended up with nineteen points to lead all scorers.

“Maggie shot poorly yesterday (against Cromwell) and she went to the gym early today and got 100 shots off,” said PHS coach Joe Fortier.  “We knew if we could get the ball into her hands she’d knock down the foul shots.”

Not having senior Rylee Mulligan was crucial to the outcome.  Rylee was a unanimous, all-league, first-team point guard for Newtown.

“Not having her available was probably a big reason for their start in this game,” added Coach Fortier.  “Hopefully she gets healthy and back on the floor.  She’s a great kid.”

Not only were the Hawks scoreless during nine minutes of the first half but they also had seven turnovers.

Karli Opalka and Claudine Legato (13 points)

Claudine Legato finished with thirteen points including four 3-pointers.  “They may have been overplaying Kayli (Opalka) and that gave Claudine some openings,” said Coach Fortier.

It would certainly make sense to overplay Kayli.  The six-foot senior already has over 1000 points and 1000 rebounds.

I was entertained by the matchup of sophomore guards Cyleigh Wilson and Maddie Villa.  They were tireless and handled the ball well.  “They are good friends off the court,” added Coach Fortier.

I was impressed with the defensive work of Jackie Matthews.  “She’s our best defender,” said Coach O’Connell.

Last February 11th, Newtown defeated Pomperaug, 47-45.  Nicki DaPra (16) and Rylee Mulligan (13) keyed the win for the Hawks.  Coach Fortier with a career 135 wins and 40 losses hasn’t forgotten that game. “The losses always stay with you,” he said.

The Panthers have everyone back from a team that was 18-6 last year and reached the Class L state semifinals.  They could be in line for another strong post-season run.

Rylee Mulligan could be back for Newtown’s next game which is a week from Saturday. “She has missed 2 ½ games and we’re taking it slow with her,” added Coach O’Connell.

Pomperaug box

Newtown box

(All of the pictures will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Sophomores Maddie Villa (35) and Cyleigh Wilson (10)

Amy Sapenter surrounded by Panthers

Ally McCormack

Jackie Matthews

Nicki DaPra and Megan Todhunter

One of Newtown’s twelve turnovers

Carolina Stubbs fronts Karli Opalka

Karli Opalka spins for two

Scramble on the floor

Karli Opalka in close

Maggie Lee with MVP plaque

Newtown coach Jeremy O’Connell raises a concern





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Newtown chills Masuk 14-7 on two Dan Mason TDs

Dan Mason (7) breaks loose late in the first half

Dan Mason scored twice for Newtown

(Monroe CT) It was a passing down, but Newtown opted instead for a run up the middle.

The result was a momentum-changing 49-yard touchdown shocker by Dan Mason and Newtown went on to defeat undefeated Masuk, 14-7.

“Cold” doesn’t come close to describing the weather conditions on the Wednesday pre-Thanksgiving event at Benedict Field.  Add an occasional gale-force wind to the low temperatures and you could imagine the discomfort.

Jack Duignan (50) flies after Joseph Pagett (2)

Two years ago, Ben Mason the linebacker became Ben ball-carrier having a five-touchdown evening leading the 2015 Nighthawks to a 40-8 rout over Masuk.  Ben’s brother Dan didn’t get five TDs on this evening but he got two and that was enough to earn Newtown a sixth straight win over the Panthers (9-1).

The Nighthawks (7-3) showed in the first half that they were not going to be another team rolled over by Masuk’s high-scoring offense.

The Panthers, on occasion, did look like the teams that had 401 points in nine games, but Newtown limited lengthy drives by pressuring QB Matt Hersch and containing Jack Roberge.

“I’m quite sure that their quarterback hasn’t been sacked that many times in a game this year,” said NHS coach Bob Pattison afterwards.

Nicholas Lorusso (25) gets behind Connor Marlin (13)

Masuk scored their only touchdown in the first quarter.  Nicholas Lorusso ran a nice fade route into the right corner of the end zone and Matt Hersch delivered a perfect nine-yard pass (behind Connor Martin) for the early lead at 3:02.

It was the 12th touchdown catch for Nicholas and the 31st touchdown pass for Matt.

At the time, I thought that this would be the beginning of a parade of points for the undefeated Panthers.

But it wasn’t.  Why?  Newtown got the stunning equalizer before the half and had the ground game to control the clock in the second half.  Add a defense that held a team that had not been behind all season, and had scored at least twenty-points in every game, to one touchdown speaks for itself.

Most important play?  The Dan Mason touchdown at the end of the second quarter. With less than a minute left in the half and forty-nine yards to go it looked like a good time to go to the air.  Newtown opted for a running play instead.

“It was a passing down, but we thought we’d see what we could get with a quick hitter up the middle,” explained Coach Pattison.  What they got was pure gold as Dan Mason followed a key block on the Masuk linebacker and then split the safeties into open territory.

Dan Mason after the NHS upset

“The grass just opened up,” said Dan later.  “I knew that I wasn’t going to let anyone take me down.”

Masuk coach Joe Lato recalled that play: “Our techniques were wrong on the touchdown.  We fixed it at halftime, but we couldn’t take the points off the scoreboard.”

The team from Monroe had a promising second-half start when Robert Martinsky brought an interception back to the Newtown 17.  Enter the high-powered Masuk offense?  Not on this evening.

The Nighthawk defense held and then the wind sent Nolan McCarter’s 28-yard kick wide left.

While the Nighthawks’ turnover wasn’t costly, the Panthers weren’t as fortunate after Jack Roberge fumbled and Joe Pagett recovered at the Masuk 33 with 3:24 left in the 3rd quarter.

Patiently Newtown moved the ball, running the clock, and converting 4th downs along the way.  Dan Mason finished the job behind terrific blocking, rushing two yards into the end zone as the third quarter ended.

Ryan Kost (12) kicks Newtown’s second EP

The extra point confirmed that this was Newtown’s day!  Joseph Lewis kicked wide right and was injured on the play. But there was a penalty on Masuk.  No Joseph Lewis to kick?  No problem.  Quarterback Ryan Kost stepped in (He was Newtown’s kicker last year) and the extra point was added.

An earlier confirmation of it not being Masuk’s day was on Robert Martinsky’s interception.  Looked like a pretty clear path to the end zone for Robert but the gathering Masuk blockers turned into obstacles and one of them forced Robert out at the Newtown seventeen.

Why does this happen?  For such an important game, why would the roster handout be messed up for Newtown?

I was impressed with Masuk’s turf field.  Great surface.  I was at the Yale Bowl for the Harvard/Yale game Saturday on regular grass.  Very slippery and uneven.

“Some of the motivation in the game was from our seniors,” said Nighthawks first-year coach Bobby Pattison. “The papers predicted a big season for Masuk and not much of one for them.  This was a game that we weren’t supposed to win but the seniors made it happen.”

Dan Mason two touchdowns gave him six for the 2017 season.  I don’t doubt that he’ll have a few more next season.

Matt Hersch at the end of a 4th quarter trick play

Coach Joe Lato went the trick play route late in the game as QB Matt Hersch handed off to Ryan Shaw and then went downfield for a pass.  The wind got into Ryan’s pass, however, and Matt’s catch was way out-of-bounds.

Good luck to Masuk in the playoffs.  Tonight’s loss should toughen them up for the do-or-die games ahead.

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably BUT you have to click on them to make it happen.)

Masuk team arrives

Jack Roberge sweeps

Jack Roberge (34) follows Nicholas Lorusso (25)

Ryan Shaw catches a pass along the Newtown sidelines at Matt Dubois defends

Trying to stop Dan Mason

Tyler Michalka brings down Dan Mason

Ryan Williams (62) goes for the block

Dan Mason stiff arms Tyler Michalka (4) on his TD run

Dan Mason steps into the end zone with his first half touchdown

Robert Martinsky runs back an interception chased by Jack Miller

Robert Martinsky

Shea Talbot (32) breaks up a pass intended for Ryan Shaw

Newtown blockers for Dan Mason (7)

Dan Mason (7) powers into the end zone

Joseph Pagett set to tackle Nicholas Lorusso

Jacob Riley and Rolt McIntyre

Kyle Good and Shea Talbot

Matt Dubois and Alex Street








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Newtown needs 4th quarter rally to get 35-28 win over Masuk

Some of the on-field action during the Masuk/Newtown Turkey Bowl

Some of the on-field action during the Masuk/Newtown Turkey Bowl

Mark Hall (1) celebrates his interception that ended the last Masuk chance.

Mark Hall (1) celebrates his interception that ended the last Masuk chance.

(Newtown CT) I’ll admit that I left the Newtown/Masuk, Thanksgiving Eve football game last year at halftime.

Trust me, I wasn’t alone in 2015 heading home from Masuk as the Panthers trailed 34-0 after twenty-four minutes.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving Eve of 2016.  Same matchup, but what a difference!

However, Masuk looked like the 2015 version in the first quarter (down 14-0) but rallied back thereafter to make an exciting game of it before losing 35-28 on a chilly Wednesday night at Blue and Gold Stadium.

Newtown extra point blocked but NOT by diving Jack Roberge

Newtown extra point blocked but NOT by diving Jack Roberge

Newtown (10-0) needed two scores in the final five minutes to pull this one out.  The final touchdown was essential for the Nighthawks after an extra-point block by Collin Briganti kept the visitors ahead, 28-27.

Masuk (7-3) would have been okay with that one-point lead if they could have moved the ball but they couldn’t. A run that went out of bounds and an incomplete pass stopped the clock twice and saved Newtown’s timeouts.  The Hawks took over at the Masuk 38 with 3:14 left trailing by a point.

The home team settled for the Ben Mason power game and were 4th-and-2 with 1:30 left.  Whether it was a hard count by QB Justin Dunn or something else, the Masuk defense jumped offside and Newtown had more downs to work with from the Masuk 9.

Michael Garner (24) in the end zone with his second TD reception of the final quarter

Michael Garner (24) in the end zone with his second TD reception of the final quarter

I thought that the Ben Mason power game inside would resume……so, it appeared, did Masuk.  The defense got caught inside and junior Michael Garner floated free to the outside.  Quarterback Justin Dunn, with terrific blocking all game, rolled right and spotted the wide-open receiver with 1:24 to go and connected for the game winner.

“We were in range to kick a field goal,” said NHS coach Steve George afterwards.  “I figured that we had time for one last shot at the end zone.  Thankfully it didn’t come down to a field goal try.”

It wasn’t that Masuk hadn’t seen the play before.  The Hawks had used the same play, same personnel to get the same result three minutes earlier in the final quarter.

There was still time (1:24) left for Masuk to answer.  However, a Matt Hersch pass to Ryan Shaw bounced off the junior and into the hands of defender Mark Hull.  Game. Set. Match.

What helped Masuk make a game of it was a Hunter Cobb injury in the second quarter.  After Masuk had rallied to tie the score in the second quarter, Hunter went down with a leg injury after a pass reception and never returned to action.

Hunter Cobb (30) sets single-season Newtown mark with 30th TD

Hunter Cobb (30) sets single-season Newtown mark with 30th TD

Prior to his departure, Hunter had registered both Newtown scores including a special second one that set the single-season Newtown record for touchdowns (30).

Without Hunter, the Newtown offense became more predictable (inside power) but the home-run pass plays in the second half worked as a result.  Masuk lost defensive numbers in the secondary in their concern for Newtown’s inside game.  The Nighthawk’s quarterback Justin Dunn had excellent protection and his receivers had time to get open.

The Masuk passing attack was surprisingly effective after the first quarter.  QB Matt Hersch was on target and he had receivers (Nick Dellapiano, Ryan Shaw, and Michael Zuk) with speed to get deep as well as catching ability.

Matt Hersch (3) registered three TD passes

Matt Hersch (3) registered three TD passes

Matt tossed three TD passes in this game to put him at thirty for the season.

Masuk punter Peter Fox’s attempt to run for a first down backfired in the first quarter.

Ben Mason had five touchdowns versus Masuk in 2015.

QB Justin Dunn scrambled for several first downs.

A Hunter Cobb pick-six in the first half was brought back because of a penalty.

Masuk's Jack Roberge finds the end zone

Masuk’s Jack Roberge finds the end zone

Panther Jack Roberge found big yards up the middle on two shuffle passes.

Masuk had the chance to take a 3-point lead on the last play of the first half but Nolan McCarter’s field goal attempt went wide left.

This game had a chilly start but once the back-and-forth action kicked in I hardly noticed it.

“Masuk is a well-coached passing team,” said Coach George.  “We expected to play better defense than we did.”

The NHS dance team and cheerleaders were excellent as usual performing at halftime.

Newtown seniors were honored before the game.

Newtown has only lost once in South-West Conference games in five seasons.

Ben Mason powers home a 2-point conversion

Ben Mason powers home a 2-point conversion

Newtown’s Ben Mason is signed on with Michigan while lineman Seth Willis will attend Brigham Young.

Scoring Details:

Newtown      14   0    7   14    =     35

Masuk          0     14   14   0     =     28

N – 69-yard run Hunter Cobb (Ryan Kost kick)

N – 1-yard run Hunter Cobb (Kost kick)

M – 49-yard pass Ryan Shaw from Matt Hersch (Nolan McCarter kick)

M – 9-yard pass Michael Zuk from Hersch (McCarter kick)

M – 18-yard run Jack Roberge (McCarter kick)

N – 5-yard pass Mark Hall from Justin Dunn (Kost kick)

M – 38-yard pass Nick Dellapiano from Hersch (McCarter kick)

N – 31-yard pass Michael Garner from Dunn (kick blocked)

N – 9-yard pass Michael Garner from Dunn (Ben Mason rush)

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Cormac Roe (14) drops punter Peter Fox

Cormac Roe (14) drops punter Peter Fox

Ball loose on Ryan Shaw (2)

Ball loose on Ryan Shaw (2)

Hunter Cobb follows some good blocking

Hunter Cobb follows some good blocking

Leaping catch by Nick Dellapiano (7)

Leaping catch by Nick Dellapiano (7)

Ben Mason (41) attracts five Panthers

Ben Mason (41) attracts five Panthers

Loose ball after Mark Hall fumble

Loose ball after Mark Hall fumble

Jack Roberge (34) breaks loose

Jack Roberge (34) breaks loose

QB Justin Dunn gets good blocking from Derek Ivey and Jack Riley

QB Justin Dunn gets good blocking from Derek Ivey and Jack Riley

Nick Dellapiano and Michael Zuk celebrate a touchdown

Nick Dellapiano and Michael Zuk celebrate a touchdown

Nick Dellapiano runs under a long Matt Hersch pass

Nick Dellapiano runs under a long Matt Hersch pass






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Nico Laveris (34 points) gets Stamford past Newtown 70-64 in overtime

Nico Laveris (34 points) hit five three-pointers

Nico Laveris (34 points) hit five three-pointers including this one from the corner.

Nico Laveris collected twelve points after getting his 4th foul early in the final quarter

Nico Laveris collected twelve points after getting his 4th foul early in the final quarter

(Newtown CT) It made perfect sense to use a triangle-and-two defense to try and stop Stamford guards Jay Devito and Yan Carlos Marte.

Why? The twosome had combined for forty-three points in the Black Knights’ opener against New Milford.

But while Newtown quieted Jay and Yan Carlos to just sixteen points between them, their teammate Nico Laveris lit up the Hawks for 34 points and was truly the key to Stamford’s 70-64 overtime win on Wednesday night.

Nico picked up his 4th foul early in the final quarter but strategic substituting by SHS coach Danny Melzer kept him out of the defensive end as much as possible. Good thing because this kept Nico available to score seven of Stamford’s last eight points in regulation, including a jump shot with forty seconds left to get the Black Knights into overtime.

The Hawks’ Nick Weiland had two glittering chances in the final forty seconds to cash the winner but not on this night. Nick’s second attempt was a half-court drive after a turnover in the final seconds that somehow Jay Devito and Nico Laveris avoided committing a foul on.

In the four-minute OT Nico set the tone on Stamford’s first possession draining a three and the Black Knight’s never trailed after that.

Dillon Palumbo (16 points) shoots from the corner.

Dillon Palumbo (16 points) shoots from the corner.

Newtown (0-2) got within one (65-64) but Dillon Palumbo missed the tying free throw attempt with thirty-six seconds left. The visitors made five-of-six free throws the rest of the way while Newtown had turnovers on both of their possessions.

This was one of those games in which you figured if you waited long enough the team that was trailing would soon catch up. There were plenty of ties and lead changes.

This was the home opener for the Hawks. Newtown, 14-8 last season, has had to replace all five starters.

Jay Devito had eleven rebounds to go with his thirteen points.

Dillon Palumbo (16), Nevin Zink (15), and Sam Duffy (14) had double figures for the home team.

Tevin St. John (12) reached double figures for Stamford.

Junior Sam Grossano fouled out early in the 4th quarter for Newtown.

Stamford (2-0) had a six-point lead (39-33) in the third quarter with 4 ½ minutes left but Newtown went on a 10-2 run over the next three minutes to pull ahead 43-41. Dillon Palumbo had six points in that segment including a 3-pointer.

Jay Devito (13 points) hit five of six free throw attempts in overtime.

Jay Devito (13 points) hit five of six free throw attempts in overtime.

Both teams were miserable at the charity stripe. Newtown: 14-for-25. Stamford: 21-for-37. Key to the win other than Nico? Stamford made 8 of 10 free throws in overtime.

Stamford, though undersized, played man-to-man throughout the game.

Next game for Newtown is hosting Kolbe Cathedral on December 28th.

Stamford visits Joel Barlow on the same day.

Newtown box

Stamford box

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Joe Duero

Joe Duero

Nick Weiland tries to get around Yan Carlos Marte

Nick Weiland tries to get around Yan Carlos Marte

Evan Eggleston attacks the rim

Evan Eggleston attacks the rim

Nevin Zink (15 points) in for two

Nevin Zink (15 points) in for two

Tevin St. John and Sam Duffy - charge or block

Tevin St. John and Sam Duffy – charge or block

Stamford pressures Tom Cotton

Stamford pressures Tom Cotton

Yan Carlos Marte

Yan Carlos Marte

Jay Devito had a double/double

Jay Devito had a double/double

game on

game on

Nick Weiland's last-second shot in regulation

Nick Weiland’s last-second shot in regulation

Stamford coach Danny Melzer

Stamford coach Danny Melzer

Dillon Palumbo tries for a block on Steffan Harding

Dillon Palumbo tries for a block on Steffan Harding

Plenty of Hawks on defense

Plenty of Hawks on defense


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