— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) November 5, 2016
FAIRFIELD >> If the state record for interception return touchdowns are accurate, Newtown’s Ben Mason did something no other Connecticut player has done in 48 years.
The soon-to-be three time first team all-state performer made his fifth-career pick six in the first quarter of No. 7-ranked Newtown’s 49-7 wipeout of Notre Dame-Fairfield at McCarty Field Saturday.
That pick put him in some rare company. While many players have had four interception touchdowns in their career, only two had ever done it five times: Simsbury’s Phil Pope and Rippowam’s Bobby Valentine.
Bobby V — who went on to establish himself as a baseball player and manager and is now the athletic director of nearby Sacred Heart University — set the standard by the time his New Haven Register all-state high school football career ended in 1967. Pope matched Valentine when his career concluded a year later in 1968.
Those two stood alone until Saturday.
Mason came into the game tied with Torrington’s Phil Bresson (2012), New London’s Jamal Johnson (1987) and even Notre Dame-Fairfield senior Mike Bevino, who shared the same field with Mason on Saturday, with four interception touchdowns in his career.
With Newtown already ahead 14-0 thanks to touchdown runs by Hunter Cobb and Mason on its first two possessions, Mason snatched a pass thrown by Notre Dame quarterback Tavon Brantley with his finger tips. After stumbling a bit, Mason righted himself, got a block from fellow linebacker Cormac Roe and took it 47 yards the other way to tie the record.
“I saw the tackle step down, so then my eyes snapped to the No. 2 receiver on the out route,” Mason said. “Then I saw the ball come, it was thrown well and I made a good play on it.
“Once I caught the ball, I wasn’t going to let anyone tackle me.”
It was Mason’s second interception touchdown of the season. As a junior last season, Mason had three pick sixes, which tied school records set by Andrew Gellert (1997) and Mike Reynolds (1996).
“That’s definitely cool. Bobby Valentine’s a big name,” he said. “I mean, I watched him on TV. I was a big Red Sox fan. So it’s definitely cool.”
Mason finished with three touchdowns (he also caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Julian Dunn in the second quarter) and led a defensive unit which pitched a shutout until the final minute of the game. Cobb finished with three touchdown runs and Jack Miller added an 81-yard touchdown for Newtown’s final score in the third quarter as Newtown improved to 8-0. Notre Dame fell to 3-5.
For Newtown coach Steve George, it was just another day at the office for Mason, who has committed to play at Michigan next year.
“It seems like it,” George said, chuckling, when it was suggested Mason seemed to have a nose for interception TDs. “It certainly seems like it.
“I’m very proud of him. He’s got a lot of ability that I almost feel like it has just been tapped. So it’s going to be fun watching him the next couple of years and we’re just lucky he’s playing well on offense, defense and special teams.”
MOST INT. RETURNS FOR TDS, CAREER
Bobby Valentine, Rippowam-Stamford (1965-67)
Phil Pope, Simsbury (1966-68)
Ben Mason, Newtown (2013-16)*
Jamal Johnson, New London (1987)
Phil Bresson, Torrington (2010-12)
Mike Bevino, Foran/Notre Dame-Fairfield (2013-16)*
*Active player (Source: Connecticut High School Record Book, 2016)