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Nighthawks Cap Unbeaten Regular Campaign With Hard-Fought Win Over Rival Panthers

Published: November 24, 2016

NOTE: Third-seeded Newtown will host No. 6 Shelton in the Class LL state playoff quarterfinals on Tuesday, November 29, beginning at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.

Newtown High School’s football team will have to overcome some tough competition in the upcoming Class LL state playoffs.

The Nighthawks overcame losing hold of a two-touchdown lead, a pair of second-half deficits, having an extra point that would have tied the game blocked, and record-setting Hunter Cobb’s first-half injury to pull out a nail-biting 35-28 win over visiting Masuk of Monroe in the annual Thanksgiving Eve clash.

The Nighthawks finish the regular season unbeaten at 10-0, and will host a quarterfinal-round Class LL state playoff game on Tuesday, November 29. The Panthers, meanwhile saw their Class L state playoff hopes take a hit as they finish 7-3. Masuk will have to see how Turkey Day games play out before they know whether or not the season is done.

Newtown was in position to tie the score following a Justin Dunn to Michael Garner 31-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but Masuk’s Collin Briganti blocked the extra point attempt, leaving the Nighthawks trailing 28-27 with 4:26 to play.

After the Hawks forced the Panthers to punt, they marched 38 yards for the game-winning score. Dunn again connected with Garner, this time from nine yards out, with just 1:24 left. Ben Mason tacked on a two-point conversion run. The decisive score was made possible, in part, by a fourth-down offside call against the Panthers. Facing fourth and two yards to go at the 18, the Nighthawks got a fresh set of downs as Masuk jumped before the snap.

A Mark Hall interception near midfield, just ten seconds later, all but sealed the win for Newtown. On third down, Mason rushed for a first down to put the game on ice.

The Nighthawks jumped out to a lead on the first play from scrimmage as Hunter Cobb broke free on a 68 yard score. Cobb added a one yard TD run to set Newtown’s season rushing TD record, later in the first quarter.

Masuk’s defense tightened in the second quarter and the Panthers evened the score. Quarterback Matthew Hersch completed a 49 yard TD pass to Ryan Shaw, and Hersch connected with a diving Michael Zuk from nine yards out.

In the third quarter, Hersch pitched the ball forward to Jack Roberge who carried most of the way for an 18-yard go-ahead score with 8:53 to go in the stanza.

Newtown converted on fourth and goal from the five yard line as Dunn hit Hall in the end zone to knot the score at 21 apiece with 4:45 remaining in the third.

Masuk reclaimed the lead on a clutch fourth-down conversion of its own when Hersch aired one out to a streaking Nick Dellapiano for a 38-yard score over the middle, with 2:27 left in the third, helping the Panthers to a 28-21 lead heading into the fourth.

Cobb left the game in the second quarter with what Newtown Coach Steve George called a minor injury. The standout ball carrier is expected to be ready to go for the state of the postseason, George said.

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