NEWTOWN, December 9 – Plenty of attention was showered upon the defense of the Newtown High football team, especially after the undefeated Nighthawks had 10 sacks in a shutout win over NFA in the Class LL quarterfinals.
It was well deserved. Newtown pitched a shutout for the fourth time in the last six games to beat Simsbury, 17-0, in a steady rain Monday night and earn a spot in a state championship game for the first time since 1992. Newtown will face Darien Saturday in the Class LL title game.
The Nighthawks had just two sacks against the Trojans but they made the stops when they had to, disrupting the Simsbury offense throughout the contest. The Trojans (10-2) ran for just 69 yards, led by quarterback Aiden Boeshans with 47 yards on 18 carries – many on seemingly broken plays.
“When you control the line of scrimmage, good things will happen and we have a tough offensive and defensive line,” Newtown High head coach Bobby Pattison said. The closest that Simsbury got to scoring was in the third period when they got to the nine-yard line on a 15-yard pass from Boeshans to Sohn, who used a stiff arm and topple over a Newtown defender.
But Simsbury was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play, pushing them back to the 24-yard line.
Given a second chance, Newtown (12-0) pounced. Samuel Smith sacked Boeshans for an eight-yard loss. After an incompletion, Newtown’s Jack Zingaro made the first of two interceptions in the game to end the drive.
“We just couldn’t generate any consistent offense tonight,” Simsbury High coach Dave Masters said. “Our defense hung in there and we had some good stops. We moved the ball in spots but couldn’t put it in the end zone. We had some penalties that sent us back.”
Five times, Simsbury was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct (four times) and tackling a runner by grabbing his shoulder pads (horsecollar tackle).
Pattison, whose team is making their first appearance in the championship game since winning the Class MM title in 1992, was upbeat about his defense that hasn’t allowed a point in the state tournament and has given up just 12 points in the last six games.
“I think the real story is our defense,” he said. “Defensive coordinator Nick Tarantino has done an outstanding job getting the kids ready and prepared by adding a bit more intensity and aggressiveness. This Simsbury team runs 20 different offensive formations and they were ready for them all.”
“It was just a battle defensively,” Masters said. “And our kids hung in there pretty well.”
Newtown, which had lost their last five CIAC semifinal contests, marched 82 yards on 11 plays to score on their opening drive. A 17-yard pass completion from quarterback Brandon Lombardo to Riley Ward and a 17-yard run from Miles Ricks on back-to-back plays put Newtown on the Simsbury eight-yard line.
Ward scored on a three-yard run with 1:17 left in the first quarter. After Logan Ashby’s extra point, the Nighthawks led, 7-0.
On their next drive, Newtown received a 28-yard run from Jared Dunn and drove to the Simsbury 10-yard line. Newtown QB John Street completed a six-yard pass to Ward but Simsbury stopped the Nighthawks on the Simsbury four, one yard shy of a first down/
Ashby’s 21-yard field goal gave Newtown a 10-0 lead.
Simsbury had a good defensive stand in the third quarter, forcing the Nighthawks to punt from their own four-yard line after Sohn sacked Street for an 18-yard loss on third down.
The Trojans had their best chance to score when Sohn was tackled on the Newtown nine-yard line. But Simsbury was marched back 15 yards on a personal foul penalty. They never got that close to the end zone again.
After an interception late in the fourth quarter, Newtown extended their lead to 17-0 when Lombardo found Ward on an 18-yard touchdown pass with 7:53 left in the game.
It was a tough loss for Simsbury but Masters praised a senior class that lost just two of their last 17 games on the gridiron.
“It is hard to win (football) games,” he said. “And this group has won 15 out of their last 17 games. They, hopefully, taught the other kids how to win.
“I am real proud of all of them,” he added.
NOTES: Simsbury was trying to earn their first spot in the championship game since 1994 when they lost to Cheshire, 45-27. Simsbury’s head coach in 1994, Joe Grace, was on the sideline rooting on the Trojans. … With 10 wins, Simsbury tied Grace’s 1994 team for most wins in a single season. The 1994 team went 10-1. They were the only two teams in Simsbury football history with 10 wins in a season. The program’s first game was in 1908.
Newtown 17, Simsbury 0
Simsbury (10-2) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Newtown (12-0) 7 3 0 7 — 17
N: Riley Ward 3 run (Logan Ashby kick), 1:17
N: Ashby 21 FG, 6:44
N: Ward 18 pass from Brandon Lombardo (Ashby kick), 7:53
RUSHING: Newtown – Mile Ricks 23-122, Brandon Lombardo 2-minus 25, Riley Ward 2-1, John Street 3-24, Jared Dunn 3-32, team 2-minus 8; Simsbury – Aiden Boeshans 18-47, Dan Sohn 5-19, Zach Gilbert 1-6, Brandon Gaffney 1-3, team 1-minus 7
PASSING: Newtown – Brandon Lombardo 6-7-0, 65, John Street 1-5-0, 6; Simsbury – Aiden Boeshans 8-21-2, 87
RECEIVING: Newtown – Jack Mulligan 1-16, Riley Ward 3-41, Jared Dunn 1-7, Jack Zingaro 1-9, Miles Ricks 1-minus 2; Simsbury – Jeffrey Coleman 3-33; Zach Gilbert 3-27; Dan Sohn 3-27
SACKS: Dunn (N) 1-9, Grant Baker (N) 1-8; Tommy Guilfoyle (S) 1-1; Arjun Bhamidipati (S) 1-7, Dan Sohn (S) 1-18; INTERCEPTIONS: Jack Zingardo (N) 2-24