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When North Haven scored a touchdown on its opening position, it was easy to think Newtown’s fifth grade football would be in for a long day. However, it didn’t take long for the Nighthawks to show how they earned their way to the Shoreline Conference championship game. In front of a large, enthusiastic group of Newtown fans that made the trip to neutral host Guilford High School on November 12, the Nighthawks got to work and defeated North Haven 28-12.
When North Haven’s onside kick attempt failed, the Nighthawks faced a short field and struck quickly. After a short, hard run by Gavin Walker, quarterback Gian Iacuele hit Drew Bradley for a 20-yard catch-and-run to set up the Nighthawks at the North Haven 30 yard line. Two plays later, Iacuele scrambled to his right and found a wide-open Ryan Schoffstall at the 15 yard line, and Schoffstall dodged a tackler and split two defenders en route to the end zone. A two-point PAT kick by William McManus put the exclamation point on the drive.
North Haven’s next drive stalled when Will Carley’s tackle for a loss was amplified by a personal foul penalty on North Haven and North Haven was forced to punt. On the following drive, the Nighthawks were forced to punt and North Haven was poised to regain the lead, but while the Nighthawk defense may have bent, it did not break. A lengthy drive featuring some outstanding tackling by McManus, Kenna Gioffre, and Marco D’Amico was finally stopped when Bradley cut down a North Haven runner on fourth down. When the Nighthawk offense was again unable to score and with time running out in the first half, the defense took charge and forced a quick three-and-out, featuring some great defense by Nate Crone.
With less than two minutes on the clock and deep in their own territory, the Nighthawk offense struck when Jayden Taylor turned a 15-yard pass into an 85-yard touchdown reception. Swarmed by three North Haven defenders as he caught the ball, Taylor side-stepped one and then used his speed to outrun the other two down the sideline. Twenty five yards later, with only one defender left to beat, Taylor used the defender’s momentum against him and cut to the middle where he was able to finish the 85-yard play for a touchdown.
The Nighthawks took the opening second half kickoff and stumbled with some costly illegal motion penalties. As if destined to win, though, the Nighthawks were twice able to overcome third and long to keep the drive alive. A nice ten-yard reception by Matti Pontore set the Nighthawks up at the goal line. Two plays later, Iacuele scored on a quarterback keeper and McManus added a two-point PAT to put the game nearly out of reach.
North Haven scored e a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and the Nighthawks seemed ready to answer with a touchdown of their own, but were forced to turn the ball over on downs. Then, with time running out and North Haven desperate for a quick scoring drive, it opened up its passing game only to be intercepted by Bradley who returned the ball to the North Haven 10 yard line.
On the following drive, Will McManus caught a short screen pass and took it to the end zone for a touchdown. North Haven’s next drive ended with the final tackle of the day recorded by Schoffstall and David DeStefano. The Nighthawk offense took the field for a final kneel-down and they were Shoreline Youth Football Conference champions.