Members of the back-to-back South-West Conference champion Newtown High School football team have three-peat on their radar, but they’re also hoping for even more playoff success this fall. A state title has been on the minds of the coaches and players, and they believe that with the right work ethic, winning both championships is well within reach. “There’s never a year I start the season where I don’t think that,” Coach Steve George said. “I expect to win.” That said, the coach really won’t look past the upcoming week’s game and the opponent, and that approach rubs off on his players.
Coming off South-West Conference championship seasons a year ago, Newtown High School’s dance and cheerleading squads are back for more postseason success this year. The dancers look forward to performing at halftime of football games this fall, and the cheerleaders are excited to get the crowd going from the sideline, as well as on the field during halftime demonstrations as they work toward their own postseason competitions. The dance team, coached by Cheryl Stenz, has the motto “New Team, Same Dream,” as the fall campaign gets underway. The cheer squad, in addition to earning the SWC championship, came in third in the state competition a year ago.
The Newtown High School Boys Soccer team kicked off the regular season at Blue and Gold Stadium on September 10 with a 4-0 win over the Bunnell Bulldogs. The Nighthawks played a strong game on both sides of the ball as standout captains Blake Jarvis and Clay Gattey led the offensive charge all night long.
The graduation of six team members who saw regular playing time last fall hasn’t prevented Tom Czaplinski, coach of the Newtown High School girls’ volleyball team, from maintaining his always-high expectations: To improve upon the previous year’s record and again be in the hunt to win South-West Conference and state titles, if not win one or both of those championships. Pressed into the need to rely on some new faces to step up and play key roles, Newtown has a path to success that certainly doesn’t look like an easy one from the outside. But Czaplinski has high hopes — and confidence in his team.
The loss of seven players to graduation and another two — senior forward Sarah Lynch and senior goalkeeper Alyssa Ruefenacht — to injury, doesn’t prevent Coach Marc Kenny from believing his Newtown High School girls’ soccer team will be back in the mix of teams contending for South-West Conference and state championships this year. Make that the team winning conference and state titles. “My expectations are always the same — SWC and state title,” Kenney said matter-of-factly during a preseason practice at the school’s grass practice fields last week.
The early outlook and scenario are, in many ways, somewhat of a carbon copy of last year’s. Brian Neumeyer, coach of Newtown High School’s boys’ soccer team, is hopeful that the finish is just a little better than it was last fall when the Nighthawks reached the South-West Conference championship game but lost to Brookfield. Newtown begins play this year with a different look — in terms of player personnel and play style — than it had last year. But, one thing that remains the same is the objective of the coach and his team members: To be one of the top four teams in the conference, thus qualifying for the SWC tournament, and contend for a championship.
Zach Gauvin, head coach of Newtown High School’s girls’ swimming and diving team, doesn’t shy away from pushing his teams to raise the bar higher than each previous season’s mark, with more practice laps in the pool, with the hope that the effort will lead to more success in the postseason. Gauvin says, given the good shape his swimmers were in when they came to the first preseason practices, he expects to squad to put in more yardage than ever before. “On paper, it looks like we have a really good team, but we won’t know until we put the work in and put in some miles in the pool,” Gauvin said. “I’m really excited to see what we can do.”
A strong returning group is back in place as the Newtown High School field hockey team strives to build off of last year’s results and perhaps make a run at a South-West Conference championship. The team lost four players to graduation, but retains plenty of talent — including ten seniors — whom Coach Stephanie Paproski hopes can bring the Nighthawks to a title this fall. “I think we’ll go far this year and I think with all the experience we have on the team, especially with the coaching staff, we have so much room to grow,” Paproski said.
It’s not too often that inexperience is the strength of a team. But, in the case of Newtown High School’s girls’ cross country squad, perhaps the most threatening part of the lineup lies in the group’s younger runners, including freshmen, according to Coach Doug Russell. “Our strength is going to be this year’s newcomers,” said Russell, noting that several of athletes in a time trial run last week, as preseason unfolded, were freshmen and sophomores. That’s not to say the upperclassmen won’t play a huge role in whatever success the Nighthawks experience this autumn.