Season Ender: Another Tough Loss Ends Season For Hawk Gridders
A season full of close games, and marked by tough-to-swallow losses, came to a bitter end for Newtown High School’s football team on Thanksgiving Eve.
The Nighthawks fell 24-21 to visiting Masuk of Monroe in a game that determined the South-West Conference season champion and had major state playoff implications for both sides.
Masuk (8-2) came into the game ranked eighth and likely punched its ticket into a Class L spot and Newtown (6-4) entered ranked ninth and missed a chance to qualify for the Class LL playoffs as the regular season winds down on Thanksgiving morning. The top eight teams qualify for states.
“Losing stinks. Losing on the last play stinks,” Newtown Coach Bobby Pattison said.
With the game tied 21-21, Newtown had a chance to seize the lead and drove inside the Masuk 40 yard line twice in the final four minutes only to have a pair of turnovers end those drives. The first was an errant backwards lateral pass that went into the books as a fumble, recovered by the Panthers. Newtown’s defense held, the offense drove the ball again, but an interception by Jake Dellapiano at the Masuk 39 with only 37 seconds left spelled doom.
Masuk moved the ball to the Nighthawk 21 yard line to set up Michael Epifano’s 38 yard field goal with only two seconds remaining.
This was Newtown’s third defeat by three points this fall. And each of those games was winnable but went the other way due to a miscues and/or penalties.
On the flip side, the Nighthawks gave some strong competition a good run for its money, pushing Shelton, Ridgefield, and Masuk to the limit.
“I’m proud of the fight we had in us. We were right in it. We just came up on the short end a few too many times,” Pattison said. “I’m proud of the seniors — they fought all year.”
Pattison noted that the Hawks certainly had their chances and Masuk capitalized on more opportunities in this contest.
The game started off completely in Masuk’s favor. An early two yard touchdown run by Nick Saccu got the Panthers on the board and it was 7-0 only 1:44 into the tilt.
Masuk’s defense forced a three and out and Newtown punt. The Panthers took over at midfield primed to grab early control, but a Caleb Smith interception gave Newtown the ball at the Nighthawk four yard line.
Newtown drove the length of the field and scored on a one yard Dylan Magazu quarterback keeper to tie the game with 1:45 left in the first. It was 7-7 heading to the second quarter.
Bryan Reyes had an interception in a defensive-minded second quarter. Magazu connected with Andew Swierbut on a 25 yard TD pass in the front left corner of the end zone, the Nighthawks took a 14-7 lead just 15 seconds before halftime and carried that lead into the intermission.
Masuk’s Ryan Saccu intercepted a pass on the first play of the third quarter but the Hawk defense forced a punt.
The Panther defense forced a punt but Newtown quickly got the ball back on an Eric Gray interception at the Masuk 35. Masuk forced a turnover on downs and tied the score with just 50 seconds left in the third quarter. Quarterback Dylan Jackson threw to Justin Briganti for a 19 yard scoring play moments after the same tandem connected to move the chains and set up the tying score.
Gray’s second pickoff of the night, this one at the NHS 18 yard line with just five seconds to go in the third, helped Newtown keep the score tied at 14-14 going to the fourth.
Smith had an impressive rush, changing directions to set up Magazu’s two yard QB keeper for a 21-14 Nighthawk lead with 7:08 left.
A 61 yard run by Nick Saccu, all the way to the two yard line, set up his own score on a two-yard keeper. The Panthers alternated Jackson and Nick Saccu at the quarterback position all night long.
On the ensuing drive, Magazu bought time by dancing around in the pocket and completed a pass to Reyes for a big gain to the Masuk 31. That set the stage for the first costly miscue as an attempted lateral pass went awry and Masuk’s Ryan Tartaro pounced on the ball at the Masuk 36 with 3:31 left.
Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at email@example.com.