NEWINGTON, Sept. 14 – It was just a matter of time on Friday in the season opener for the Simsbury High football team.
Twice in the first half, the Simsbury defense stopped Newington scoring drives inside their own 10-yard line to keep the game scoreless. That gave Simsbury’s triple option veer offense enough time to work out the kinks and get their offense moving.
Simsbury dominated the second half with a pair of long marches and it paid off when junior Kyle Dougherty hit a 28-yard field goal with 2:30 remaining in the game to lift Simsbury to a 3-0 season opening victory over Newington.
In the third quarter, Simsbury held the ball for over six minutes and marched 57 yards on 12 plays to the Newington 10-yard line before the drive stalled. However, Newington’s Christian Nguyen was able to race through the line to block a 26-yard field goal attempt by Dougherty with 4:12 left in the quarter.
In the fourth quarter of a scoreless contest, Simsbury took over with 9:25 remaining in the game on their own 23-yard line and marched 65 yards on 15 plays to the Indian 12-yard line, eating up nearly seven minutes in the process.
This time, Dougherty was able to convert with Simsbury’s first game-winning field goal since 1986 when Todd Krutchkoff hit a 27-yard FG to beat Conard, 3-0.
To keep the drive alive, Simsbury converted twice on third down and short and once on a fourth-and-one from the Newington 30 with 4:30 remaining.
“We didn’t finish drives and we had a lot of mistakes,” Simsbury quarterback Steven Steijn said. “But we focused. We saw the game was ours to take.”
In the triple option veer, there is a lot of responsibility on the quarterback’s shoulders. It is his job to make a read of where a hole is and whether to keep the ball or pitch it to a nearby teammate.
Steijn, who tore his ACL in the opener against Newington last September, slipped through a gap for a 22-yard gain to convert on a third down and five early in the game-winning drive.
Three plays later, Steijn slipped through a gap up the middle for a two-yard gain to convert on a third down and one play. Three plays later, senior Christian Martinez powered his way for a seven-yard gain on a third down and eight play. On fourth and one, Steijn slipped through the middle again for a two-yard gain to the Newington 30-yard line with 4:30 left to keep the drive alive.
Two plays later, Martinez gained one yard but had to leave the game for a minute after a Newington player grabbed his helmet and nearly ripped it off his head. The 15-yard penalty put the ball on the Newington 14 yard line.
Three plays later, Dougherty hit the game-winner.
“They’re a good football team,” Newington head coach Roy Roberts said. “They did what they had to do. I still think we were clearly the better defensive team and clearly the better team.”
Newington was quick and strong and they nearly scored on their first two drives of the game. Sophomore QB Jake Hedberg found teammate Eric Ryan on big gains of 27 and 21 yards in the opening drive. The 21-yard completion on a screen pass put the ball on the Simsbury seven yard line.
But the Trojans stiffened. Newington got to the two yard line after a three-yard run from Isiah Young. But on fourth and goal, Simsbury’s Cormack Mulshine slowed Hedberg and teammate Eddie Novak made the hit to keep him out of the end zone.
On Newington’s second drive, they quickly marched to the Simsbury 10-yard line. But Mulshine made a big hit on second down to stop Young for a one-yard gain at the nine-yard line. The drive died after a pair of incomplete passes from Hedberg.
“I love the game of football,” Roberts said. “It teaches you about who you are as a person. It is about opportunities. Just like in life. We had opportunities we let slip through our hands.”
Steijn ran for a team-high 63 yards on 19 carries while Martinez rushed for 45 yards on nine carries.
Simsbury allowed 51 yards on the ground to Newington. Hedberg completed 12 of 26 passes for 107 yards and two interceptions. His passing yardage numbers would have been a bit higher but when Simsbury’s Jacob Lerscher tipped a pass from Hedberg high into the air behind the line of scrimmage, Hedberg caught it for a 13-yard loss.
Blair Zentek and Brendan Conway each had interceptions for Simsbury.
“Defensively, we played well and they adjusted as the game went on,” Simsbury coach Jeff Osborne said. “They played a heck of a second half once we figured out their scheme. Our linebackers played well and got pressure on their quarterback.
He grinned, “We have a million things to fix but at least you can fix them with a W in your column.”
NOTES: Simsbury leads the overall series between the two schools, 16-4. It was the lowest scoring game between the two schools since a 6-0 Simsbury in the first game of the series in 1962.
Simsbury 3, Newington 0
Simsbury (1-0) 0 0 0 3 – 3
Newington (0-1) 0 0 0 0 – 0
S: Kyle Dougherty 28 FG, 2:30
RUSHING: Newington – Jake Hedberg 6-8, Eric Ryan 10-41, Isaiah Young 4-2, Christian Beauford 1-15; Simsbury – Andrew Girard 8-30, Cormack Mulshine 7-13, Brad Helmkamp 4-18, Christian Martinez 9-45, Steven Steijn 19-63, Andrew Longfritz 1-13, Eddie Novak 2-7
PASSING: Newington – Hedberg 12-26-2, 107; Simsbury – Steijn 0-1-1, 0
RECEIVING: Newington – Hedberg 1-minus 13, Ryan 5-64, Young 1-5, Adam Murphy 2-19, Andrew Grenier 1-4, Zachary Morris 2-28
Penalities: Simsbury 8-80, Newington 6-65; Interceptions: Tyler Miller (N) 1-6, Brendan Conway (S) 1-4, Blair Zentek (S) 1-20; Blocked FG: Christian Nguyen (N)