Newtown was the final team on the field when high school football was last played in Connecticut in 2019, riding off as CIAC Class LL champions.
With no football in Connecticut last fall and facing endless hours of training between December 2019 and September 2021, when football begins again, Newtown has focused on one thing.
“Compete, compete, compete,” Newtown head coach Bobby Pattison said. “What we try to do for our offseason program is we break into lifting groups and those are led by two seniors. Our big thing is compete, compete, compete and we keep track of points in the summer. Usually on Fridays we have competitions. We have tug-of-war, tire flips, agility, shuttles and relay races. Just to try and change it up a little bit. Sometimes we play dodgeball, sometimes play ultimate football or whatever just to mix it up. It’s just a change from getting on the line and running wind sprints.”
Pattison said that with no 11-on-11 football taking place for so long he and his coaching staff have been using the weekly competitions as a gauge for the players.
“You start to see the leaders emerge from those competitions and that’s what we are looking for,” Pattison said. “You can learn a lot about guys from how they compete in anything, it does not have to just be football.”
His team was one of 28 at the Grip it and Rip it 7-on-7 tournament in New Canaan two weeks ago.
Though it is a far cry from 11-on-11, Pattison feels it is in line with what his team wants right now which is any possible space to compete.
“It has been a long year and the kids are just excited to be out here competing. We are seeing some teams out here that are really good and that’s what we want for our guys,” Pattison said. “This is not real football, but it’s good reps at the same time. There are teams here that predominantly run the ball first and you don’t get to see what they can really do. The competition is great and it’s a good event for our kids to get some competition and reps.“
Pattison added he was looking to see which players made the biggest gains in the time away from the field.
“It’s nice to see kids that have been working hard in the offseason in the weight room coming out here bigger, stronger and faster. Then to see that translate on the field is good,” Pattison said. “Every coach here has kids who worked really hard and are seeing them mature and grow up. Most teams in Connecticut didn’t play.”
The season officially kicks off with OTA’s from Aug. 12-14 and formal practices Aug. 21.
Newtown begins its title defense Friday, Sept. 10 at home against SWC foe Pomperaug.
On Sept. 24 the Nighthawks travel to Darien for a rematch of the 2019 Class LL final.
Newtown also has non-conference games against Ridgefield from the FCIAC and Cheshire and Shelton from the SCC on the schedule.
Pattison said he has no idea how his team will fare in 2021 but noted, nobody else does either.
“Everything is such a crapshoot right now for players,” Pattison said. “You have sophomores who are now seniors, a lot of those kids were JV guys and they have to figure it out quick. Even guys who were freshmen and are now juniors they missed a year of JV which is really important for developmental purposes as well. And our freshmen that are now sophomores we will do our best to get those guys up to speed but we only had a 7-on-7 season in the fall so that was tough. They haven’t played real football either and we don’t even know what those guys can do because we didn’t see them actually put pads on.”