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Hawks Fall To Masuk At New Stadium-Resilient NHS Football Team Second In SWC



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Hawks Fall To Masuk At New Stadium—

Resilient NHS Football Team Second In SWC

By Andy Hutchison

Newtown High School’s football team lost 42-0 to unbeaten Masuk of Monroe in the South-West Conference championship game at the renovated Blue & Gold Stadium on Thanksgiving Eve. Underdogs against the third-ranked team in the state, the Nighthawks kept things close for the first quarter-plus of the game before the Panthers broke free with some timely third down conversions and turnovers.

Hit hard with injuries which included three quarterbacks sidelined, and dealing with the many hurdles that come with having no home field for almost the entire campaign — not to mention no locker room because of school construction — the Nighthawks were a resilient bunch and somehow won eight of nine games to earn a berth in the SWC finale.

The NHS-Masuk clash was originally scheduled as the last game of the regular season but became the conference title tilt when the two teams carried the best records into the match-up, per SWC rules. Blue & Gold Stadium, with its new turf surface and track, officially opened for game play after delays in the project’s completion throughout the fall campaign resulted in the Hawks playing “home” games in Brookfield and Southbury.

Fans from Newtown and Masuk filled the bleachers, and cluttered the grassy hills around the field to cheer on their respective teams. Unfortunately for the Hawks, most of the celebration came from the opposite sideline and bleachers.

The Panthers had scored 42 or more points in each of their first nine games, but had trouble with the Nighthawks in the early going and were held to a 7-0 lead a few minutes into the second quarter. Masuk’s standout quarterback Casey Cochran, was sacked three times as Colby Summerlin and Gunnar Cedergren teamed up to tackled the QB in the backfield once, and Max Nacewicz and Doug Brede combined to get to the Cochran twice more.

Once the Panthers shook off some early Newtown defensive pressure, they seized control quickly. Leading 7-0 in the second, Masuk added a score when Cochran completed a pair of third down passes, on a drive that culminated with an 11-yard scoring strike to Colin Markus.

On the ensuing Newtown possession, following Louis Fennarolli’s first down run, the Panthers got another touchdown when Joe Diaz returned an interception 30 yards for a score. Still in the second, Jon Testani intercepted a pass at the NHS 45 and, on the next play, caught TD pass from Cochran to make it 28-0 — a lead the Panthers carried into halftime.

Newtown quarterback Dan Hebert, who had been called upon to step in for the injured Will Arndt early in the campaign before being injured himself, returned to action for the title game, only to leave after taking a hard hit on a first down run. QB Cody Fischer, who filled in at the quarterback spot late in the regular season when both Hebert and yet another QB, Greg Frattaroli, went down with injuries, came on to play in the title game. Frattaroli also saw some action in the pocket during the championship clash. Newtown had several other injuries, perhaps most notably the one that sent Rory Noonan, a key offensive, defensive, and special teams weapon, to the sideline early in the campaign. Despite all of this, the Hawks won seven straight games to earn a spot in the big game.

“I’m proud of the kids. I just told them they probably shouldn’t even have been here and they fought their way into the championship game and when you play a good opponent like this, injuries hurt,” Newtown Coach Steve George said. “I love this group of seniors and they real hard for me and they practiced really hard for me — and I know it’s a runner-up trophy but I’m proud of them for what they accomplished.”

Nacewicz said he was proud of the team for earning eight wins in some hard-fought games this year despite not having the support of a home crowd, and having to take the bus to game after game, throughout most of the campaign.

“We had to play mistake-free this game and we didn’t do that,” Nacewicz said. “When you play a team like that you have to make no mistakes. … Masuk’s a great team. I wish them luck in the (state) playoffs.” Newtown narrowly missed qualifying for the state playoffs on tiebreaker points.

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