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Newtown High School’s football team has made it a habit of thoroughly dominating its South-West Conference rivals. The team is rarely challenged much until the state playoffs roll around.
But as the Nighthawks put the finishing touches on another season’s worth of almost weekly blowouts — outscoring its nine opponents a cumulative 389-76 heading into the regular-season finale — news came out that they stand to have some challenging regular-season games ahead in the years to come.
Three Connecticut high school football leagues, on November 21, announced a two-year scheduling partnership that will involve 39 total teams and at least 80 games throughout the 2017 and 2018 campaigns.
This includes 12 SWC schools, 22 from the Southern Connecticut Conference — including league newcomers/FCIAC defectors Harding and Bassick of Bridgeport — and five from the Eastern Connecticut Conference. The conferences have agreed to a scheduling partnership that will begin next fall.
Newtown will take on SCC schools Shelton and Xavier of Middletown.
“Matchups you don’t see everyday drives a lot of excitement and enthusiasm,” for the game of football in the conferences and throughout the state, Newtown Coach Steve George said.
A majority of the cross-conference tilts will take place in weeks two (September 15–16) and six (October 20–21) of the 2017 season. There will also be games held in weeks four and 11.
Representatives from each of the leagues met several times over the past few months to develop the matchups, which were based on class size, school enrollment, and recent program success, according to a press release from the three conferences. One of the unique features of the partnership is that participating teams could see as many as four different opponents during the two-year cycle. Matchups for the 2018 season will be determined at a later date.
“Non-league games offer a bit of excitement and intrigue during a football season,” said Al Carbone, commissioner of the Southern Connecticut Conference. “The SCC is very pleased to be part of this partnership, and believes it will be a model that can unify future football scheduling in the state.”
“The South-West Conference is excited and proud to partner with the ECC and SCC in scheduling non-league football games for the 2017 and 2018 seasons,” adds Dave Johnson, Commissioner of the South-West Conference. “This scheduling affiliation will be good for high school football because it creates more equitable and competitive games for large, medium, and small schools and should generate more fan interest and excitement.”
Newtown and New Milford are the only Class LL schools in the SWC, and while the size of the school doesn’t mean everything, the fact is competition gets tougher for the Nighthawks once they reach the Class LL state playoffs each fall.
“We worked for the best interest of all of the leagues, and it was a nice process that came together well,” Eastern Connecticut Conference commissioner Gary Makowicki said. “Our teams are able to now see different opponents, and judging by the criteria we used, the games should be competitive.”
The Hawks will visit Xavier of Middletown in week two, and host Shelton in week six; both opponents have winning records. Newtown lost a hard-fought battle with Shelton in the state playoff semifinals last fall and the teams could meet again in this year’s state playoffs.
“It’s good to have them tested throughout the season and I think the teams we’re playing do that,” George said.