Nighthawk Football Team Flying High As It Heads Into Bye Week
Newtown High School’s football team cruises into its bye week with a 4-0 record and nothing but dominant showings thus far.
The Nighthawks got a solid overall effort from its starters and reserves alike in a 58-0 whitewashing of visiting South-West Conference rival Bethel at Blue & Gold Stadium on September 28.
Players wore pink socks, and proceeds from the game went to the American Cancer Society with Breast Cancer Awareness month set to begin.
It was 21-0 after one quarter of play and 44-0 at halftime.
“We took care of business in the first half,” said Newtown Coach Bobby Pattison, adding that the Nighthawk coaches got as many substitutes into the game as they could. “It’s nice for them to get some experience.
“It’s nice for evaluation to see guys in different positions, and it rewards kids who work hard all week,” Pattison added.
Starting quarterback Luke Melillo completed nine of 12 pass attempts for 133 yards and a touchdown, and Jack Street connected on four of five passes for 38 yards to lead what has been forced into a second-half conservative offense by virtue of thoroughly outplaying teams in the opening 24 minutes of every contest. Brandon Lombardo took several second-half snaps to help run the offense.
Riley Ward caught five passes for 100 yards, including a touchdown.
Nine Nighthawks carried the ball, accumulating 220 yards on 31 rushes — an average of 7.1 yards per play. Dan Mason led the ground attack with 11 touches for 128 yards and a trio of Newtown’s scores. Gren Paynter shouldered a bulk of the second-half load and finished with 11 rushes for 40 yards and a TD.
Bethel never threatened to score and had trouble moving the chains. On the other side of the ball, the Nighthawk offense marched up and down the field, seemingly with ease.
“We won the line of scrimmage,” Pattison noted.
The first-quarter scoring featured ten-yard Joseph Pagett TD run following a Pagett 44-yard punt return, Mason’s six-yard run, and a Melillo five-yard keeper.
In the second, Mason went 32 yards for a rushing score, then scampered in from nine yards out. Ward had a 43-yard TD reception. Will Swierbut’s interception led to kicker Devin O’Connell’s 33-yard field goal as time expired to end the first half.
Newtown had 20 players in on 35 team tackles. The defensive effort was well-dispersed, with the most tackles by any one player five by Joe Zeller. Ricks and Carroll both recorded three tackles. Easton Ricks and Bob Carroll both had quarterback sacks. Evan Prestera recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter.
Special teams would not be outdone by the offense and defense, scoring on both the final play of the first half and first play of the second half.
Miles Ricks did his usual thing, entering for a play or two and racking up serious yardage. He returned the second half opening kickoff 81 yards for a score.
Place kicker Devin O’Connell was seven of eight on extra point tries, drilled a rare field goal try, and piled up 469 yards on his nine kickoffs, an average of 52.1 yards per kick with a long of 60.
Weeks off generally give teams a chance to heal wounds and get healthy. Thus far, knock on wood, the Nighthawks have had good fortune.
“We’ll be getting back to the basics — lifting, running, watching film,” Pattison said of how his team will make the most of its week off from game play.
Pattison pointed out that there will be no margin for error in tougher games.
“We’ve got to clean some things up, be a little but more fundamental,” the coach added.
Up next is a rare nonconference game (one of two) and an even more unusual afternoon tilt, a Saturday, October 13 visit to Norwich Free Academy, which plays teams from a variety of different conferences and comes into the matchup having suffered only one loss, which was to Fairfield Prep. Kickoff is set for 1 pm.
“They’re competitive every year. They play a tough schedule,” Pattison said of NFA.
Newtown will return home to face Pomperaug of Southbury on Friday, October 19; the game will start at 7 pm.