Tag Archives: Coach Joe Lato

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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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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