BROOKFIELD — Not that members of Newtown High School’s football team won't gladly take their first two triumphs — after all, a win’s a win — but they were much more pleased with the overall performance in the third tilt of the season. Newtown got its most complete-game effort of the young campaign in a 35-7 thumping of host Brookfield, under the lights, on September 27.
The Nighthawks, for the third week in a row, held the opposition scoreless in the opening half of play, establishing a commanding 21-0 cushion at the break. What’s more, for the first time this season, Newtown scored in the second half. In the process of improving to 3-0, the Hawks achieved their goal of putting together strong third and fourth quarters, and handed the Bobcats their first loss in three games.
“It felt good — finally we came out strong in the second half,” said Newtown quarterback Drew Tarantino, who threw three touchdown passes. “I think we proved to a lot of people that we’re for real.”
The Nighthawks are the defending South-West Conference champions but lost a large part of their team to graduation and, while they had displayed signs of dominance in the first two games, didn’t put together that start-to-finish performance they’d been seeking. That changed in the Brookfield game thanks to an emphasis on keeping the ball rolling after halftime.
“I didn’t want them to come out flat,” said Newtown Coach Steve George, adding that the players seemed satisfied with their big first-half leads in weeks one and two (NHS beat New Milford 26-7 and held on against Bethel for a 22-14 win).
“We worked hard this week at practice. We knew we were a better team than we showed,” George said. “We still haven’t reached our potential yet. I’m going to keep hammering that into their heads.”
Tarantino connected with Julian Dunn for a 13-yard scoring strike; a Nick Lotrecchiano interception set up the game’s first touchdown. With kicker Connor Miller sidelined with an injury, Dunn — who punts for the Nighthawks — played the role of place kicker early on in this game as well, and tacked on the extra point.
A six-yard Cooper Gold rush into the end zone made it 13-0 Hawks in the second quarter and the kick-after attempt failed.
Dunn capped the first-half scoring with 55-yard catch and run to the paint. He caught a Tarantino bomb near the right sideline, broke one tackle, and outran several defenders as he crossed the field and scampered in for the score. Gold’s two-point conversion run made it 21-0. A 40-yard completion from Tarantino to Troy Frangione sparked the 90-yard drive, moving the ball from the Newtown 10 all the way out to midfield. A false start penalty had backed the Hawks up a handful of yards, but didn’t prove to be costly.
Newtown carried its momentum into the third quarter with a second half-opening scoring drive.
“We were not content at halftime. We wanted to come out and prove we can play four quarters,” Dunn said.
In the third quarter, Gold carried several times to help move the chains before a pass interference call on the Bobcats aided Newtown’s first drive of the half. Gold scored on a two-yard toss from Tarantino, and Newtown missed it’s two-point conversion attempt. It was 27-0 Hawks with 8:21 to go in the third.
Tim Krapf caught a pass to set up a seven-yard Gold scoring run with 10:53 to play in the game. Gold added a two-point run to cap the Nighthawk scoring.
The Nighthawks had the better of the field position throughout this contest, effectively making it no contest. Brookfield’s possessions in Nighthawk territory were few and far between, and a Dunn interception at his own 35 yard line in the third thwarted a rare Brookfield march across midfield.
Newtown committed few penalties and was solid on both sides of the ball, not committing a turnover and forcing two takeaways.
George pointed to the play of his front five — Pete Manfredonia, Markus Elken, Dom Scarangella, Kevin Conte, and Josh Krapf — protecting Tarantino when he was under center as a key to the win. The only time Tarantino got hit for a loss was on a roll-out play.
The starters didn’t allow any points. “Our defense played outstanding,” said George, noting that Brookfield’s lone TD — which came midway through the fourth — was scored against Newtown’s reserves.
The Nighthawks are gearing up for what looks on paper to be one of their tougher tests this fall, a visit to Joel Barlow of Redding on October 4. They return home to take on New Milford on October 11. Both games are at 7 pm.
With three games in the books, and a trio of wins under their belts, the Hawks are feeling good about themselves. Coming off their best win of the campaign they’re feeling good as gold.
“We’d like to believe we’re on an upward slope now,” Gold said.