Weekend wrap: Nighthawks attack, Ansonia, and 1,600 other words
There were times last week that Newtown coach Steve George watched Ansonia on tape and was wowed by its speed.
The Chargers had run down their Naugatuck Valley League brethren through the first five weeks of this season. The combination of quarterback Jai’Quan McKnight, running back Tajik Bagley and back/receiver Tyler Bailey paced a rushing game that averaged 309 yards per game.
The Nighthawks’ defense showed Ansonia and the over 3,000 in attendance on Friday night that they’ve got some wheels, too. They took away the edges and stuffed the Chargers’ vaunted power running game, leading their team to a 14-8 win and stopping Ansonia one-game shortof tying Cheshire’s state-record 49-game win streak.
“We just flew like maniacs the whole game,” said Newtown linebacker Nick Samuelson (two sacks).
Newtown (6-0), ranked seventh in The Day’s Top 10 state coaches’ poll, limited the No. 3 Chargers to 47 yards rushing on 46 attempts.
“I thought man-for-man they might be faster than us, and I know people don’t want to hear that,” Chargers coach Tom Brockett said. “That football team has excellent speed, and I thought you saw that. We couldn’t break anything big. They ran our guys down. They got a step on us. They’re an outstanding football team.”
More dominance — Ansonia (5-1) ran 65 plays for 151 yards (2.3 yards). The Nighthawks dropped the Chargers for losses on 21 plays, too.
“They’re an extremely fast team,” Newtown defensive back Joey Santella said. “They have a lot of athletes on their team. We tried to replicate that as much in practice to prepare us. ... We did a lot of trying to contain the edge so that they couldn’t get outside, which is where they get a lot of their plays. I think we did that pretty well.”
Asked about replicating the Chargers’ speed at practice, George said, “You can’t. You can show them a lot of film. You can tell them what’s going to happen, but you can’t replicate things like that. We knew what they were going to try to do, and we knew that they were going to run outside; try to run some power plays on us.”
The trio of McKnight, Bailey and Bagley had a combined 122 carries for 1,285 yards and 24 touchdowns prior to Friday.
Bailey ran 10 times for 41 yards. He also caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Bagley had 11 carries for five yards.
McKnight was under siege all night and withstood a pounding. He had just 1 yard on 25 attempts. He also completed 7 of 19 passes for 104 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
“(Defensive back) Joey Santella made so many plays off the corner,” Samuelson said. “He ran McKnight down every play. (Sophomore linebacker) Ben Mason is a freak of nature (6-foot-3, 225 pounds). I don’t know what’s up with him, but he’s so fast, and he got in on every single play.
“Coach told us all week that we have read our keys. Every person did that. We won the little battles, which won the big battle.”
Asked for an example of reading their keys, Samuelson said, “Coach said, ‘you take that fullback and you put him on his butt.’ That’s what I tried to do every single play. The rest of the linebackers, they just read the play. We knew what they were going to run before they ran it. Coach prepped us for that all week.”
Newtown’s linebackers were as good as advertised as Tim Krapf, Nick Rubino, Mason and Samuelson were sensational.
Ansonia had overwhelmed opponents with superior bulk and power up front for over three years. That, coupled with its speed and the brilliance of Arkeel Newsome, allowed it to win three straight state championships and 48 straight games.
The Nighthawks may have been the first team Ansonia played that had more size and brawn than it did since its loss to St. Joseph in the 2010 Class S final. Their offensive line averaged 6-1 and 264 pounds, and they used that mass to keep the Chargers’ offense off the field for most of the first half.
Jared Pearson (18 yards) and Rubino (4 yards) ran for Newtown’s touchdowns. Jaret Devellis ran 19 times for 151 yards.
“I think tonight they were more physical at the point of attack,” Brockett said of the Nighthawks.
Ansonia’s offense finally got on track in the third quarter and ran 24 plays to the Nighthawks’ 7.
Newtown’s defense kept turning the Chargers over, though. It turned them over on downs on successive possessions at its 21 and 29 yard line.
Ansonia was trying to score the go-ahead touchdown when it had a second-and-7 at the Newtown 31 with over five minutes left. The Nighthawks didn’t let them gain another yard.
The Chargers had one last chance with the ball at its own 37 and over two minutes left.
Newtown pushed them back 24 yards on four plays, including a botched snap for a 14-yard loss. And with it went the Chargers’ winning streak and chance at history.
“I told my kids all week, it was not about the streak, and I say that with an honest face,” George said. “They knew it was a big game for us, but as far as the streak goes, our goal was not to break the streak. To win the game was. I didn’t want that aura of Ansonia football that follows them wherever they go (and) my kids thinking (about) that. I didn’t want them to have that. The focus was on the game, the game plan. ... The kids believed they could win.”
Asked if he realized what he and his teammates accomplished, Samuelson said, “I do realize what I just did, but it’s Week 6. No rings are won on Week 6.”
• • • •
The Chargers last loss was to St. Joseph, 49-28, in the afforementioned Class S final on Dec. 11, 2010.
Ansonia would go on to blitz opponents by a combined score of 2,311 to 677 over its next 48.
Do the math — the Chargers beat their foes by an average of 34 points.
Seymour lost to Ansonia last season, 21-20. It was the only time that anyone was within a touchdown of beating the Chargers during their streak.
“It’s a remarkable streak,” Brockett said. “I don’t think it’s anything we’re going to sit back and think about (Friday night). I’m sure someday, when you look back at it, it’s 48 wins, and it’s tough.
“Our kids were down (against Newtown) and they fought back. I think that’s what our kids epitomized. Again, all the credit goes to Newtown. They won the game.”
• • • •
The South-West Conference didn’t just get bragging rights over the NVL in last weekend — it threw the NVL off the steel cage.
The SWC thoroughly whipped the NVL in the much awaited NVL-SWC Challenge. The SWC won 11 of the 12 games. Four of those wins were by SWC teams who had losing records prior to Friday night against NVL teams with winning records:
• New Milford (2-3 before this weekend) vs. Kennedy (3-2). New Milford won, 48-8.
• Pomperaug (2-3) vs. Holy Cross (4-1). Pomperaug scored 22 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win, 29-28. The Panthers went 97 yards in the final minutes for the go-ahead touchdown.
• Bunnell (1-4) vs. Torrington (3-2). Bunnell routed the Red Raiders, 48-9.
• Notre Dame of Fairfield (0-5) vs. Crosby (3-1). ND scored 20 unanswered points in the second half and won, 34-27.
Naugatuck was the lone NVL winner as it overwhelmed Barlow, 44-13. The Greyhounds are coached by Craig Bruno, who held the same job at Bunnell for 12 seasons before leaving after the 2012 season. It prompted GameTimeCT.com czar Sean Patrick Bowley to tweet, “Needed a Bunnell guy to win the 1 game.”
• • • •
Here’s how those in The Day coaches’ poll fared this weekend:
• Top-ranked New Canaan had a bye.
• Jasen Rose completed 13 of 20 passes for 260 yards and four touchdowns as No. 2 Southington mashed unbeaten Hall on Friday, 48-0, in the weekend’s most impressive win. It was one of the weekend’s marquee games as Hall upset the defending Class LL champion Blue Knights last season (49-37). Both also had tough wins this season over Glastonbury (Southington won, 41-38; the Warriors 20-14 in overtime). It gathered to reason, then, that this game would be close. NOPE. The Blue Knights led 41-0 at halftime, and running time was used in the second half. Paul Angilly of the New Britain Herald, Derek Turner of the GameTimeCT.com Monolith, and, Bodacious Bryant Carpenter of the Meriden Record-Journal reporting.
• George Reed ran for two touchdowns and had two sacks as No. 4 Darien smashed Trinity Catholic on Saturday, 42-0. Doug Bonjour of Hearst Inc. reporting.
• Mike Scherer completed 25 of 38 passes for 238 yards and a TD and caught another as No. 5 Xavier scored 27 unanswered points in the second half to best West Haven on Saturday, 27-7. GameTimeCT.com reporting.
• JoJo Shumaker ran for 292 yards and six touchdowns as No. 8 Ledyard downed Montville on Friday, 48-19, and won the Eastern Connecticut Conference Medium Division title. Steve Nalbandian of TEAM DAY reporting.
• Mufasha Abdul-Basir ran for two touchdowns and Kevin Trefz threw for two more as co-No. 9 St. Joseph routed Bassick on Friday, 45-0. Hearst Inc. has a blurb HERE.
• Mark Piccirillo threw for 221 yards and three touchdowns and ran for two more as co-No. 9 Shelton beat Wilbur Cross on Friday, 58-22. Handsome Mike Madera of GameTimeCT.com Monolith reporting.
• • • •
Thanks for reading. More soon.
Vaya con dios.
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