Class LL: Ridgefield stops Newtown’s inspired comeback, advances [video]

Ridgefield's Andrew Chuma (left) gives Newtown's Drew Tarantino a pat on the helmet after Ridgefield's 35-33 victory over Newtown in the Class LL quarterfinals at Blue and Gold Stadium. (Screen cap by Sean Patrick Bowley)

Ridgefield’s Andrew Chuma (left) gives Newtown’s Drew Tarantino a pat on the helmet after Ridgefield’s 35-33 victory over Newtown in the Class LL quarterfinals at Blue and Gold Stadium. (Screen cap by Sean Patrick Bowley)

NEWTOWN — Newtown was muscled and outplayed for much of its state quarterfinal game vs. Ridgefield. Yet, there the Nighthawks were, with the ball at the goal line about to play for the tying score with seconds remaining.

But Ridgefield wasn’t about to let Newtown become a team of destiny.

Lucas Goff and Pat Weston converged and forced Newtown quarterback Drew Tarantino to make a desperate 2-point pass that Matt Kissell deflected harmlessly away and Ridgefield survived with a 35-33 victory at Blue and Gold Stadium.

Ridgefield, the No. 8 seed, advances to face No. 4 Southington in the Class LL quarterfinals at 2 p.m. Saturday at West Haven High School.

The victory, Ridgefield’s first state playoff win since it won a state final in 2003, had the Tigers elated and relieved to have won a game after nearly surrendering a three-touchdown lead.

“I wasn’t worried,” said Ridgefield back Will Bonaparte, who ran for 226 yards on 36 carries and scored twice. “I was prepared to go into OT and win the game that way, and win any way we could. Coming out and winning our first playoff the way we did tonight, there’s nothing better.”

Newtown senior back Cooper Gold had just scored on a 2-yard run to cap a scoring drive that began at the Newtown 19 with 3:09 left. Ridgefield had a feeling the ball would either go back to Gold, or would be a pass intended for all-state receiver Julian Dunn.

The 2-point play turned out to be a pass. Tarantino had all day to throw, but couldn’t find his man. Finally, Goff got pressure on the quarterback and Tarantino was forced to just throw it into traffic.

It fell incomplete. Ridgefield recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

“It was so emotional for us,” said Andrew Chuma, a senior who was locked on Dunn and held the receiver in check for much of the evening. “We’ve been battling through so much adversity and to finally win, we haven’t won in states in 10 years, is huge for us.

“They’re a great football team. I can’t say enough about them. They have so much heart. They were down and they came back. We’ve been rivals with these guys since grade school and we haven’t played them since middle school. It was awesome to pull off a win against them again.”

Ridgefield junior quarterback Ryan Dunn threw two touchdown passes and ran for another as the Tigers took an overwhelming, 35-13 lead with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.

But Newtown’s defense tightened, stopping a fourth down and sniffing out a fake punt, and the offense rallied with three touchdowns over the final 15 minutes of the game.

“Our leaders stepped up, we made a few speeches and we came out with a lot of heart,” Tarantino said. “We opened up the playbook and that worked out and fought to the end. As a captain that’s all I can really ask from this team.

“We just came up 2 1/2 yards short. That’s the way it works out; it’s a game of inches.”

Tarantino threw touchdown passes to Troy Frangione to get Newtown within 35-20 after three. In the fourth, the senior caught an option reverse touchdown pass from Julian Dunn to pull within 35-27 with 11:16 remaining.

After forcing Ridgefield to punt later in the fourth quarter, Newtown had the ball with 3:09 remaining and needed to go 81 yards for the score and to set up a chance to tie.

Aided by a pass interference penalty on Chuma, Newtown drove all the way to the 2-yard line with seconds remaining.

There, Cooper Gold scored on a left-handoff to set up the thrilling finale.

“I knew they were going to come back,” Ridgefield coach Kevin Callahan said. “Even when we were up big, I knew they were going to come back. They’re too good a team, especially at home. I was just hoping we had enough to hold on.”

RIDGEFIELD 7 14 14 0 — 35
NEWTOWN 0 7 13 14 — 33

R—Ryan Dunn 7 run (Petro Papodapoulos kick)
R—Andrew Chuma 56 pass from Dunn (Papodapoulos kick)
N—Julian Dunn 13 pass Andrew Tarantino (Otto Kerler kick)
R—Will Bonaparte 3 run (Papodapoulos kick)
R—Bonaparte 65 run (Papodapoulos kick)
N—Troy Frangione 2 run (kick failed)
R—Rossini 19 pass from Dunn (Papodapoulos kick)
N—Frangione pass from Tarantino (Kerler kick)
N—Tarantino pass from Dunn (Kerler kick)
N—Cooper Gold 2 run (pass failed)


  1. jeb says

    No one from Newtown has ever answered my question: How did they let Colton Smith get away from them to attend Prep? This kid is fantastic and will be the states best player next year.

    • fciac jr says

      A little birdie told me a lot of the Newtown families will be at the Prep game Saturday to cheer on starting OL Roche and QB Smith. Both SHS alums and current residents.

      Will have a tough time with WH as they have revenge on their mind. Hope this game is on CPTV.

      Ridgefield dream season will end, unfortunately, but they may make it a game.

      Prep over WH 33-21
      Southington over Ridgefield 45-35

  2. JJJJ4 says

    SPB – you left out the most important word in your opening sentence….”out coached”. The play calling for Newtown was terrible.

    • JB says

      Newtown needs to join a real football league. The parents will then see reality. Newtown staff is class act all the way, but you go 12-0 and make it look easy against a bunch of cupcakes … false expectations. The FCIAC would be a good fit, time to leave the SWC.

    • Eye of the Tiger says

      There was a reason we wanted Newtown in the first round. What’s up with the crazy parents screaming at the coaches during the game. You could hear it from the other sidelines. Unbelievable.

  3. JJ says

    In all seriousness though, that was a great football game. Unfortunately there can be only 1 winner and people need to learn to enjoy the ride. Great yr Newtown. You were legit….

      • Sean Patrick BowleySean Patrick Bowley says

        Yeah: Ridgefield lost to Darien (close) and St. Joseph (not close). Neither quite doing poorly right now.

        • JB says

          And barely beat Cheshire and Wilton. Had the weakest FCIAC schedule … reason why they were so low in the final point standings in the league.

          • Sean Patrick BowleySean Patrick Bowley says

            True. But it’s clearly a better team now than it had been earlier in the season. They’re not New Canaan no, but they were right there with Darien even with Bonaparte on the sidelines for a majority of that game. They were driving for what would have been the winning score. They also hammered McMahon late in the year. St. Joseph didn’t.

          • JB says

            Ridgefield did not play NC, Greenwich or Staples. In the crossovers, Staples played Xavier and Greenwich played WH. Ridgefield played Cheshire. Not saying Ridgfield is a bad team, but there were 4-6 teams in the FCIAC as good or better than Ridgefield. You might even be able to add Trumbull to the argument. That is reality of this year.

          • Sean Patrick BowleySean Patrick Bowley says

            OK. You can argue that. I think they’re better than you do. At this point in the year, I’d say they’re about 4th in what’s turned out to be a pretty strong league.

  4. JB says

    Ridgefield was 5th in the conference standings based on power points. Staples was 4th (only losses were to NC and Greenwich). Ridgefield made states because they beat Cheshire and Staples lost to Xavier. That is the reality.

    • Sean Patrick BowleySean Patrick Bowley says

      @JB – Again, I’m looking at right now. They’re better than they were in September. Just like Greenwich was better than Staples by the end of the year. That’s the reality.

      • JB says

        OK, Ridgefield was 4th in the FCIAC. That indicates Newtown was in reality not a top 10 team in the state, despite the record. That was the original point.

  5. Will Plettier says

    Time to just get rid of the conference system and play within your class. Keep one rivalry game, but stop seeding teams based upon how they did against teams outside their class. Not just in football – in all sports. The conference system is outdated and skews the state tournament in every sport. rarely is the #1 seed ever the true #1 seed.

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