Champs! Boys' Booters Capture SWC North Division Title
Newtown High School's boys' soccer team, its roster loaded with varsity-experienced seniors, was made to win this fall. And the Nighthawks certainly did their share of coming out on top, going unbeaten and all the way to the South-West Conference North Division Tournament championship.
The Nighthawks capped off their coronavirus-altered season with a 4-1 win over visiting New Milford in the title game, at Blue & Gold Stadium on November 14.
Ryan Ruddy set up a pair of goals on corner kicks, the first to Tanner Trede in the first half, and the second to Jack Petersen, who moved up from his defensive position to head the ball home off the set piece a mere 49 seconds into the second half.
Jake Gonski used his head to redirect a send from Ruddy just over 11 minutes into the second half, making it 3-0. Tyler DiMartino added top-seeded Newtown's third goal of the half to make it 4-0.
The third-seeded Green Wave did not break through until hitting the net just a split second before time expired.
Despite only scoring once in the opening 40 minutes before the break, Newtown was knocking on the door throughout the first half. Hunter Baillargeon sent the ball forward from the back to Brandon Akbas, who sent a ball through box that went just wide as Gonski raced for it and ended up in the back of the net himself.
Later in the opening half, Justin Zemo was set up by Adem Selmani for a chance that went just wide.
The Hawks needed little time to extend the lead out of the break. Petersen set up the corner kick with a long send to the left corner.
Petersen was a wall in the back, multiple times shutting down Green Wave attacks inside or near the 18 yard box. Nighthawk starting goalkeeper Connor Mandarano and Jasin Kodzodziku, who entered the game with about ten minutes to play, both came up with saves when called upon.
"The kids bought into what we were doing," said first-year Coach Ryan Lyddy, adding that the togetherness of the group is what was most special about this year's Nighthawks in his eyes.
"It feels awesome," said Petersen, praising the efforts of the coaching staff beginning back in July when team members began brief practices in hopes of having a season.
Lyddy pointed out that, heading into pinnacle games, coaches often preach the importance of rising to the occasion. He feels that sticking with the approach that gets a team there, with less pressure, is more effective. The Nighthawks went about their business as they did throughout the season.
Newtown went 12-0-2 overall, five times scoring at least four goals and posting eight shutouts along the way.