Hawk Gridders Win Behind Tarantino's Record-Setting Performance
NEW FAIRFIELD — Newtown High School’s football team remained unbeaten with a 41-20 victory at New Fairfield on November 1. The win was highlighted by the efforts of quarterback Drew Tarantino who broke his own Newtown High School single season passing yardage record as well as the all-time NHS passing touchdowns record.
Tarantino threw for four of Newtown’s six TDs in the win over the Rebels as the Nighthawks improved to 8-0 overall and 7-0 in South-West Conference play; the Rebels fell to 5-3 (4-3).
Julian Dunn caught three of those touchdown strikes, Troy Frangione had the other, and Cooper Gold ran for a pair of scores in the win.
“I think we ran the ball well in the second half,” said Newtown Coach Steve George, adding that the work of the offensive line and that ground game were difference-makers for Newtown.
Tarantino completed a 32-yard scoring strike to Frangione to even things after the Rebels struck for a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. The scoring play came on a fourth down and two yards to go situation when Tarantino spotted a wide open Frangione down the right sideline for the tying score.
With the game still tied, Newtown’s Jimmy Leidlein recovered a botched fair catch attempt on a New Fairfield punt return, giving the visitors possession at the Rebels’ 31. Gold had an 18-yard carry up the middle to set up Tarantino’s go-ahead TD pass to Dunn who leaped high in the back of the end zone to haul in the eight-yard pass with just nine seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Nighthawks added to their lead on Gold’s two-yard rush into the paint with 2:44 left in the half. The point after attempt was blocked, leaving the score 20-7 NHS at the half. Gold’s TD was set up by a key fourth and nine completion from Tarantino to Frangione.
Dunn had a 30-yard TD reception to start the second-half scoring, giving the Hawks a commanding 27-7 lead with 9:18 left in the third.
The Rebels converted a fourth and six for a 16-yard scoring strike to get the seven points back only 2:10 later. New Fairfield then came close to recovering an onside kick. The ball deflected off a Newtown player, then a Rebel before Newtown’s Jack Lago pounced on it at his team’s 37 yard line to prevent a potential momentum shift in the game. The Nighthawks were stopped and had to punt but the NHS defense held strong to force a New Fairfield punt. A strong kick return by Frangione gave the Hawks possession at the New Fairfield 43 and Newtown cashed in when Gold found the end zone on a 14-yard burst up the middle in which he fought through several would-be tacklers. It was 34-14 Nighthawks with 1:15 to play in the third.
In the fourth, Tarantino connected with Dunn on a 40-yard touchdown play on third and 36. Dunn caught a short pass near the left sideline, outran a few defenders, then hurdled a New Fairfield player attempting to make a diving tackle, en route to the end zone for a 41-14 lead.
Although Newtown won pretty convincingly, the Rebels did put up a decent battle and became only the second team to hold a lead on the Hawks this fall; Joel Barlow of Redding was the other.
“They have a lot of good skill players. Their quarterback was very difficult for us to contain in the pocket,” George said of speedy and elusive New Fairfield QB Mike McCourt.
Tarantino said he was aware he was on the verge of setting the records but kept his attention on the task at hand.
“I was just focusing on the win. I knew New Fairfield was a good team and we had to prepare for them,” said Tarantino, whose Hawks are ranked No. 1 in the Class LL point rankings and appear headed back to conference championship game which the team won a year ago.
“That record’s been standing for, I think, 20 years. It is a big accomplishment,” George said of Tarantino breaking the all-time TD record. “It’s an impressive showing and it couldn’t happen to a better kid.”
“I worked hard for it,” said Tarantino, quick to credit his offensive line, the ball carrying of Cooper Gold, efforts of his receivers led by Julian Dunn, and the coach’s play calling for his success.
Read more about the record-breaking efforts in the November 8 print edition of The Bee.