Week 9: No. 7 Newtown (7-0) at Brookfield (6-1), Friday, 5 p.m.
NEWTOWN — Why try to dodge someone when you can just run right through them with the football in your arms?
Don’t ask Dan Mason. He doesn’t know.
The senior running back has utilized his power to perfection in his breakout season, mauling defenders with a punishing style en route to the end zone. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Mason has 21 rushing touchdowns.
Some of his touchdowns have been untouched thanks to an offensive line that’s playing together for a second straight season. When contact is required, good luck to the defender. With an unmatched nose for the end zone, Mason turns into a hunter when the white line is near.
“I think it’s confidence for him,” said Newtown coach Bob Pattison. “I think he realizes he’s as good as he wants to be; he’s going to run you over and you’d better bring more than one guy to take him down. I think that’s his mentality.”
It’s an identity that began at an early age, as his father, Bob, a former Division III All-American, and older brother, Ben, who is torturing defenders on the goal line at Michigan, left a lasting impression.
Even if the memories aren’t all positive.
“In my backyard my dad would always have my brother and I suit up,” Dan recalled. “We lined up straight across from each other and do an Oklahoma; he knocked me on the ground and I threw my helmet off and cried and said I wasn’t ever playing football again.”
Mason was in fourth grade when the clan moved from Wrentham, Mass., to Newtown. The gridiron was the haven as he got acclimated to his new surroundings, progressing through the town’s youth teams.
“The first thing I started doing was playing football here and I just made friends on my fourth-grade team,” Mason said. “We just grew up together and now we’re here.”
HIS OWN PATH
Though their personalities couldn’t be much more different — Dan is easygoing while Ben is the “Terminator,” in Pattison’s words — their highlights would be difficult to differentiate aside from Ben’s three-inch height advantage. Dan began as a tight end as a sophomore before showing flashes of brilliance with the ball in hands. He thrived in a limited role as a junior, carrying 67 times for 478 yards and eight touchdowns.
“Even two days ago in school someone called me Ben, one of the teachers,” Dan joked. “It doesn’t bother me, really. I’m happy for him and what he’s done, and I’m just trying to build off it and do my own thing.”
Dan played linebacker up until this season, when Pattison wanted to conserve his standout for wearing down opponents late in games. His breakout effort came Oct. 13 when he rushed 33 times for 197 yards and three touchdowns against Norwich Free Academy.
It was more than the yardage that made the trip to Norwich stand out for him, though. He rolled through an NFA defender — despite a lane available to race to the corner — and greeted the hosts’ student section. The same moves his brother has utilized in the Big 10 and taken viral still take place on the Nighthawks.
“I definitely like contact a lot,” Mason said. “I think I probably could have beat him to the edge, but it was just better, more fun to run him over. … Size helps a lot when you’re trying to run people over, but it’s more of a mentality, really.”
Mason hopes to play in college — schools at different levels have shown interest — which would make him the third to do so in the family.
“His tape will speak for itself,” Pattison said. “He runs hard, he’s a physical kid and he’s not afraid of contact. He’s hard to bring down and you see his explosive nature. Whether college coaches want to use him as a tailback, fullback or linebacker, that’s up to them, but I think a lot of coaches look at ‘Is he an athlete?’ and ‘Is he explosive?’ and I think Dan is both of those.”
Mason has helped 7-0 Newtown climb to No. 7 in the GameTimeCT/Register Top 10 poll, fueling hopes of a postseason run the town hasn’t seen in a generation. Despite a host of recent success that’s included five SWC titles in the past six years, Newtown last won a state title in 1992 (Class MM).
Hopes are high after mauling two of the stronger opponents on the schedule — NFA and Bunnell — in recent weeks. Newtown will face 6-1 Brookfield on Friday and will end the season with Masuk on Nov. 21. An undefeated season would leave the Nighthawks at or near the top of the Class LL standings for the postseason.
“We’re looking forward to state playoffs,” Mason said. “We want to win as many games as we can. It would a lot to us and the community (to make a run in the postseason), because most of the teams have usually lost in the first or second round. I think this team has a lot of bigger hopes; we want to win a state championship.”