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Although the game schedule may only run from September through late November or into December, football season really never ends.
Just ask members of Newtown High School’s gridiron battlers who, during the 80- and 90-something hot summer days have been working out in preparation for the upcoming campaign. The Nighthawks have participated in the school’s summer workout program weekday mornings, four times each week, for about two hours. It is held at Newtown High School, in the weight room, on the track and turf at Blue & Gold Stadium, and on the natural grass back fields for Friday strongman sessions.
The program begins in the middle of June every summer, and continues into mid-August, at which time the players are allowed to strap the pads on and engage in contact as the offseason officially transitions into the preseason.
The 90 or so members of the football program are broken into teams that compete in weight-lifting and running as well as other fitness events. On select Fridays the teams within the team participate in a strongman competition which includes flipping a tractor tire, various fitness exercises, and the prowler push and pull.
“It’s a different form of conditioning. You’ve got to push, you’ve got to pull, you’ve got to lift — you’ve got to do it all,” said Newtown Coach Bobby Pattison, adding that the players look forward to the Friday competitions.
“It’s all about the transition guys,” Pattison told his players as they worked together to try to outdo their teammates/summer workout competitors during one of those strongman battles.
Teams are awarded points for their effort and deducted points if they do not show up or work hard enough, Pattison said.
“What’s nice about it is it builds some of the team chemistry and the competitive nature,” Pattison said. “Ultimately the goal is to build team chemistry and get ready for the season.”
“It’s fun but it’s hard,” senior David Daria said of the summer program, which takes place bright and early in the morning.
The upperclassmen have grown accustomed to the summer workout regiment, and the newcomers to the program seemed to enjoy being tested at such a high level.
“You’ve got to grind for this. You’ve got to put in the work,” said Sam Smith, an incoming freshman.
Part of the Friday competition includes stutter-stepping through a ladder then racing to the goal post at the far end of the grass field, and the Nighthawk players were surprised during one of the strongman days to have the sprinklers come on while they performed the drill.
“It was fun doing the ladder and running to the goal post and getting sprinkled by the sprinkler,” said Smith, adding that the tire flip was the most challenging part of the competition because of the difficulty getting a grip on it.
The Nighthawk gridders were hard at work throughout the winter offseason, lifting weights.
“I think one of the great things we have is our commitment to the weight program. We have a lot of kids that have continued hitting the weights and love working out,” Pattison said. “The season ends and the weight lifting begins for a lot of these kids.”
Newtown showed its muscle by placing fourth among 26 teams in the state weight lifting competition in the spring.
Pattison is pleased with the weight lifting performance and commitment but said the players need more than just strength to succeed on the field.
“Now we need to focus on getting into football shape, which is a combination of strength and endurance,” Pattison said.
The higher their endurance the more productive they will be on the field for more consecutive plays during games, the coach said.
Pattison and his players are looking forward to the regular season and are optimistic their hard work in the offseason will lead to success in games.
“I’m excited,” said Pattison, who was promoted from his role as defensive coordinator when Steve George stepped down at the end of last season.
“Before you know it summer’s going to be over and we’ll be getting ready for Pomperaug,” Pattison said of his team’s opening game, when the Hawks visit the Pomperaug Panthers in Southbury, on Friday, September 8, beginning at 6 pm.
Newtown is scheduled to visit Xavier of Middletown on September 15, at 7 pm, in the first of two clashes with Southern Connecticut Conference foes. The Hawks get back to South-West Conference competition with their home opener, set for September 22, against Brookfield, beginning at 7 pm. After a September 29 bye and an October 6 visit to Bethel, at 7 pm, the Hawks will host SCC opponent Shelton — in a rematch of last year’s state playoff quarterfinal clash won by Shelton — on October 13, starting at 7 pm.