ANSONIA >> Fans in attendance tonight at the much-anticipated tilt between Masuk and host Ansonia could witness history.
There’s a good chance that Ansonia running back Arkeel Newsome will set the state record for career rushing yards. Newsome, who has orally committed to play at UConn, needs just 291 yards to surpass former Chargers standout Alex Thomas for the top spot. Thomas, who played at Yale, tallied 8,279 yards from 2004-2007.
Newsome rushed for 314 yards in a 62-28 victory over Derby last week to move into second place behind Thomas.
“Yes, I’ve thought about it,” Newsome said. “After the game last week, I looked at it and saw that I had 291 yards (to go) to get it. I think I could do it (against Masuk). I think it would be big if I can get it and also get the win.”
Newsome has carried 690 times for 7,989 yards — an average of 11.6 yards per carry — and 126 rushing touchdowns in his career. Newsome already owns the state record for total touchdowns (139) and points (860) in a career. He has season totals of 80 carries for 1,184 yards (14.8 yards per carry) and 20 touchdowns entering tonight’s contest.
“It’s amazing, especially on our end, because we got to see what Alex did,” Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said. “You saw it and you wondered in your lifetime if you would see someone even come close to it, and then to be coaching a kid a couple of years later that has a shot to break it is remarkable. If he stays healthy, obviously, he’ll do it at some point.”
Newsome’s teammates hope to see the record fall against Masuk (4-1), a team the Chargers will face for the first time in their storied history. It’s a part of the SWC-NVL Challenge, a two-year agreement that begins this season which pairs league opponents against each other. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Jarvis Stadium.
“I want him to do it, personally, and I know the team wants it, too,” Ansonia junior quarterback Jai’Quan McKnight said about Newsome going for the record. “I hope he can do it against Masuk. That’ll be the exclamation point at the end of the game.”
The Chargers enter unbeaten at 5-0 and are ranked No. 1 in the Register Top 10 Poll. Ansonia has won back-to-back state titles and 33 consecutive games. Masuk suffered its first defeat of the season last week, losing to Pomperaug in the closing seconds.
Still, this contest should be highly competitive. Masuk runs a similar offense to Derby, which trailed by just one score at halftime against the Chargers last week. Senior quarterback Malik Cummings leads the Panthers’ balanced spread attack. Senior running back Joe Damota has rushed for a team-high 397 yards and four touchdowns while senior receiver PJ Kokkoros has made 18 catches for 485 yards and three scores.
“Obviously Derby’s a rivalry game, so it takes on a life of its own, but this (Ansonia-Masuk) is a game that people wanted for years,” Brockett said. “They are similar to Derby. I think (Masuk) is a little bigger and a little faster in certain areas but both teams have great quarterbacks. I think Masuk has the best receiver I’ve seen so far, that kid Kokkoros; he’s awesome. They’re going to present you with a lot of problems.”
Facing Derby a week prior to Masuk certainly has its advantages for Ansonia.
“(Derby) had our defense on edge last week,” McKnight said. “We got our linebackers moving a little bit more. We got used to the spread offense that Masuk runs. I think we’re ready for the task.”
In addition to Newsome and McKnight, senior fullback Saiheed Sanders, junior receiver Witold Gul and sophomore receivers Tajik Bagley and Tyler Bailey also contribute to Ansonia’s potent offense, which has averaged 55.4 points per game.
Ansonia, which is often criticized for what many believe is a soft schedule, is certainly looking forward to competing against Masuk, a Class L school that has reached the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons.
“I think we’re excited,” McKnight said. “It’s probably the most exciting game of the season playing a (top team) in Masuk and the program they’ve had over the years, and Ansonia what we have. It’s going to be a great game. Masuk has a great program. If we come out and play like we feel we should I think it’ll make a statement for Ansonia football.”
Said Newsome: “I’m very excited. I just love playing in big games. I love playing against teams that could give us a struggle.”
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