Practice makes perfect. Newtown coach Steve George knows it. He’s a true believer that, after months of playing football, a roster may be stocked with sophomores and juniors, but it’s really with hardened veterans.
So when third-ranked Newtown takes on Brookfield Thursday night in the SWC Championship game, George knows the Hawks will be facing a vastly different team then the one they defeated 35-7 in Brookfield back in September.
“They were really young when we played them early on,” George said. “They were sophomores. But toward the end of the season they become juniors. You grow up quick playing a lot of football.”
Brookfield and its heralded sophomore class, which is headlined by 6-foot-1 back Bobby Drysdale and linebacker Austin Reich, earned the right to play for the school’s first SWC title since 2008 with a gutsy 28-26 victory over a veteran Barlow squad. Drysdale batted away the tying 2-point pass to preserve the victory.
Teamed together with a talented core of seniors, including two-year starting quarterback Brad Westmark, 6-4, 300-pound lineman Louie Rodrigues and receiver Liam Clancy, and emerging junior Dan Jackson, Brookfield has won seven straight since its loss to Newtown and has already qualified for the Class M state tournament.
“Barlow is a senior-laden team and all the years I’ve coached of time we’ve won championships most of the time they were with senior laden teams,” Brookfield coach Rich Angarano said. “Our sophomores and our young class are doing a super super job with a good senior nucleus. I’m so proud of this team.”
Drysdale is second in the SWC with 1,646 rushing yards and Jackson has run for 560 and 10 touchdown as the Bobcats have steered away from a spread attack back to their double-wing roots this season.
“It’s unreal. I can’t believe it’s happening again,” Jackson said after the Bobcats took down Barlow to get their rematch. “We’re just oozing to go out there and try our best. We’re coming.”
Westmark, who threw for 2,427 yards in 10 games as a junior, has only completed 70 of 123 passes for 1,054 yards through 10 games as a senior. He didn’t need to throw a pass last year.
Newtown’s done some growing up, too. The Hawks are the defending champions, but still had work to replace last year’s graduated stars.
Despite bringing back just two starters on defense, Dom Scarangella and Josh Krapf, Newtown has allowed a mere 124 points, best in the SWC.
The Hawks’ defense has been bolstered by a strong corps of underclassman linebackers, particularly juniors Tim Krapf and Jaret DeVellis, freshman linebacker Ben Mason and sophomore Nick Samuelson.
No one has stopped three-year starting quarterback Drew Tarantino and junior receivers Julian Dunn and Troy Frangione. Tarantino leads the SWC with 2,231 yards passing and 30 touchdowns against just six interceptions. Tailback Cooper Gold is third in the league with 1,138 rushing yards.
“We have to get off the field on third downs,” Angarano said. “Or we’re in for a long night against Newtown. We can’t let teams convert third-and-12s like we did (against Barlow). And we can’t put the ball on the ground at the 1-yard line.”
Because of Immaculate’s forfeit, Newtown had last week off to freshen up and get ready for the SWC final. Now they’re itching to get back on the field, not just for a game, but playing in a showcase SWC final for the first time since losing to Brookfield in 2008.
“I think our kids are obviously really excited for the game be on the main stage,” George said. “We haven’t played SWC championship in front of an SWC championship stage. It should be exciting. The Brookfield will definitely be there in full force because it’s their home field. We hope our fans come to and support us because it’s not that far down the road.”
Who will win the 118th Ansonia vs. Naugatuck game?
Total Response: 501 Votes
Brookfield vs. Newtown
WHEN — Thursday, Nov. 21, 7 p.m.
WHERE — Brookfield High School
RECORDS — Brookfield 9-1, Newtown 10-0
LAST MEETING — Sept. 28: Newtown 35, Brookfield 7
PREVIOUS LEAGUE TITLES — Brookfield: SWC – 2005, 2008; WCC – 1995, 1994, 1993. Newtown: SWC – 2012, 1997, 1996; WCC – 1992, 1991, 1981, 1980.
PLAYERS TO WATCH — Brookfield: Sr. QB Brad Westmark (1,054 yards, 9 TDs passing); Soph. RB Bobby Drysdale (1,644 yards, 23 TDs rushing); Soph. LB Austin Riech (6.6 tackles/gm); Soph. TE/DE Nick Seis; Jr. RB Dan Jackson; Sr. WR/DB Liam Clancy; Sr. OL/DL Louie Rodrigues (6-4, 296). Newtown: Sr. QB Drew Tarantino (2,231 yards, 30 TDs passing), Sr. RB Cooper Gold (1,138 yards rushing, 10 TDs); Jr. WR Julian Dunn (40 catches, 819 yards, 17 TDs receiving); Jr. WR Troy Frangione (44 catches, 590 yards, 7 TDs receiving); Sr. OL/DL Dom Scarangella; Jr. LB Tim Krapf; Sr. DL Josh Krapf; Jr. LB Jaret DeVellis).