NEWTOWN >> Hey, Ansonia: Newtown’s football team gets you.
The Nighthawks feel where you’re coming from. Maybe not the pressure of hanging on to a winning streak. But they do understand, even after everything you’ve accomplished, that you might feel a bit disrespected.
Before Newtown’s football players take Connecticut’s final whack at derailing your run at Cheshire’s state record 49-game win streak Friday night at Blue and Gold Stadium, they want you to know they respect you.
Despite disparaging remarks you might have heard from outsiders on such topics as your competition (or lack thereof) in the NVL, or how worthy you might actually be compared to Cheshire’s great teams of the 1990s, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, Newtown believes you are an outstanding football team.
“They’ve won — what? — the last three state championships for them?” Newtown all-state receiver Julian Dunn said of Ansonia earlier this week. “They’ve won 48 straight. Those are the facts. And you can’t doubt the facts.
“They’re a good football team. There’s no question.”
Newtown knows what it’s like to win and get nothing but grief.
The team has reached the Class LL playoffs for three years running. It has won back-to-back SWC championships. Heck, Newtown even has its own streak going: The Hawks have won 26 consecutive regular season games since 2012.
Yet, all the Hawks say they hear from outsiders is how they’re really not so hot, how their league’s no good, that they can’t be taken seriously as an elite football program.
It’s a familiar song, isn’t it Ansonia?
“We definitely get the same thing in the SWC they do (in the NVL),” senior captain running back and linebacker Jaret DeVellis said. “The past couple of years we’ve been doubted. The past couple of years the SWC as a whole has been doubted.
“We’re two doubtable teams that just want to go out there and show people what’s up.”
Though Ansonia and Newtown will be combatants Friday night, they’re kindred spirits with a common goal: Shut up the critics by winning a historical football game between two top-ranked teams.
This generation of Ansonia players wants to immortalize itself in the state record books on the way to a fourth consecutive state championship and 20th overall.
Newtown wants to beat one of Connecticut’s most storied programs and affirm its might as it vies for a third-straight league title and first state championship since 1992.
Newtown also has a score to settle with itself. Though it has finished the last two regular seasons unbeaten, Newtown is 0-2 in the Class LL state playoffs. NFA showed Newtown the door, 63-21, in the 2012 quarterfinals. In last year’s first round, Newtown lost to Ridgefield 35-33 as the tournament’s top seed.
Playing a team of Ansonia’s caliber will let Newtown know where it stands at the 2014 season’s midpoint.
“(Ansonia’s win streak) is in the back of our minds,” Dunn said. “But that’s not our No. 1 focus. Our focus is winning the football game and getting to the state playoffs. The streak affects them, it doesn’t affect us. This game gives us a chance during the regular season to prepare for postseason play because we have to practice like it’s a state playoff game.
“A win would put us in the right direction and show ourselves we can achieve in the big game.”
Team glory. League respect. Community pride. State playoff implications. A record win streak.
Everything’s on the table, there for the taking.
“We’re not just playing for ourselves,” DeVellis said. “We’re playing for our town and the SWC. It’s definitely a statement game for us.”
But there can be only one.
Sorry Ansonia, but the Nighthawks would prefer it was them.
And, yes, since you’re asking, Newtown would enjoy going down in history as the team to stop Ansonia’s streak short of Cheshire’s all-time mark.
On the LaxWorm football show last month, senior lineman Markus Elken let slip that he wanted to beat the streak “more than anything.”
DeVellis concurred with that sentiment, but reiterated that beating the streak really hasn’t been the team’s focus this week.
No, he and Dunn said, Newtown’s focus is making sure it takes advantage of its size and experience to win the battles up front; making sure its vaunted linebacker corps stops Ansonia’s skill players from burning up the turf; making sure quarterback Jacob Burden has time to get the ball to his myriad of playmakers…
You know: winning the game.
“I’m not going to lie,” DeVellis said. “It would be nice to end something so special to a team. But… really, we’re going to try to play our best game and hopefully it happens.”
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