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Nighthawk Fans Are The Best — CIAC Recognizes Newtown High Student Section



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Whether a football Friday on a chilly night — home or away — a basketball game in the gym, a big playoff game somewhere far away, or any number of other Newtown High School sporting events the Nighthawk fans are sure to be there supporting their peers with strong representation.

The Hawks Nest as it is known, is always rocking.

For their high level of enthusiasm, sportsmanship, school spirit, originality, and student section leadership, NHS won the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Battle of the Fans contest for 2024.

“It’s nice to be recognized,” said Newtown High Athletic Director Matt Memoli, quickly pointing to the students for making this happen. “It’s totally run by our students.”

The fans come together for theme nights at games throughout the course of the season. There was the USA game in which they wore red, white, and blue while cheering on the football team at Blue & Gold Stadium. The Student Section organized a beach theme night, there were games in which fans dressed in camouflage, donned all pink in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and then there were blackout and whiteout games in which the Nighthawk supporters wore all black and all white clothing.

Student Section leaders are Roman Verna, Gjin Abazi, Woody Morris, Sam Stoltz, and Kyle Ruddy.

Among those also heavily involved is Isabel Khazadian, a track competitor at NHS, who runs the social media aspect of the NHS fan group. Khazadian, who wants to pursue sports media studies in college, took this on for her senior capstone project and, along with classmates Verna and Ryan Michlovitz (in charge of the technical elements of the group’s efforts) make the game day experience exciting for players and the rest of the fans alike.

The Newtown students take advantage of video screens at Blue & Gold Stadium and in the gym. They hold media days for many of the teams and record videos used for introductions of players prior to contests.

“It’s so much fun. It definitely has made the year a whole lot more exciting,” Khazadian said. “I know how much the players enjoy having fans there.”

On any given football Friday night there are 100 to 200 fans piled into the student section portion of the bleachers. They are loud and clearly having fun at the games.

“It’s insane. It’s almost like you’ve got a 12th man out there,” football player Cole Wanzer said.

“It’s amazing,” said football and basketball player Ryan Zaniewski, adding that the student-fan support elevates the atmosphere at games.

"We were 9-2 at home during the regular season this year. A huge part of our success at home was our supportive student section. They bring an energy that you can feel in the gym every night," said Matt Murphy, coach of the NHS boys' basketball team.

The fans travel well, too, thanks to encouragement of the Student Section leaders. Many attend away football games and head to Danbury Ice Arena to back the hockey team. Ruddy is among those on both sides — in the game one night and in the stands another. Ruddy plays soccer and lacrosse and also enjoys being on hand to watch his friends play. “I try to go to every game I can,” he said.

Memoli noted that the effort put in by students behind the scenes as well as at games makes for a college-like experience on a high school campus. The AD also noted that the fan support goes beyond the high school students with youth athletes in town often on hand and mingling with the NHS students and cheering for the Nighthawks. Some of them even ask for autographs from the players.

“It improves the overall culture of the entire school,” Memoli said.

While the games require cooperation among players on the fields and courts there is a collaborative effort among Student Section members to make the experience all the more enjoyable.

“There’s definitely a lot of teamwork with everyone,” Khazadian said.

The NHS student-fans, although they certainly want to be heard at the games, do not do this for publicity. Being recognized is nice though.

“It shows us how hard work pays off,” Ruddy said.

Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at andyh@thebee.com.

NHS won the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Battle of the Fans contest.—photos courtesy Isabel Khazadian
NHS fans support the hockey team at Danbury Ice Arena.
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