NORWICH—What started as a shootout turned into an absolute avalanche.
And each touchdown that came up on the scoreboard served as a reminder that No. 8-ranked Newtown can more than play with quality opposition from outside its own league.
Luke Melillo and Dan Mason each ran for three scores as the Nighthawks pulled away from NFA 51-14 Saturday, lifting their record to 5-0.
Out-of-conference games have not been kind to Newtown either in the regular season or playoffs over the past several seasons, but emphatic wins over Cheshire and now the Wildcats in the crossover series with the SCC and ECC have provided conference that a playoff run might be possible.
“People look at us and look at the history and say, ‘who do they play,’” said Nighthawks coach Robert Pattison. “Every conference has good football teams, whether it’s the SWC, SCC, ECC or FCIAC; the best of every conference can play with each other. I think the crossover was good for us because you get to see what the talent is across the state.”
The entire team circled the two games as a chance to prove themselves against non-SWC opposition.
“Our No. 1 goal was to win our out-of-conference games and we’re 2-0,” Mason said. “We completed that, we’re happy. We got the test that we wanted to because (NFA) played tough. I think it was a good game for us.”
Mason carried 33 times for 197 yards to set the tone on the ground for Newtown, which scored 34 unanswered points after the first quarter ended with the schools deadlocked at 14-14. Melillo ignited a passing attack with several long completions, including three that went for more than 30 yards.
A highlight-reel catch from Shea Talbot led to a touchdown that gave Newtown a 14-7 lead in the first quarter.
“The line gave me some time and I was able to move in the pocket well,” Melillo said. “Our receivers made some played; Shea made a great play at the beginning of the game, we went on the score and we rolled from there.”
The defense tightened up for Newtown, which held a talented NFA offense off the board for three quarters. The Nighthawks forced four turnovers, including picking off three Elijah Parker passes. One of those came late in the first half with the Wildcats driving, as Joe Pagett picked off a pass in the red zone and returned it near midfield. One long competition set up a field goal by Devin O’Connell that gave Newtown a 10-point cushion.
“We’ve been looking forward to this one for so long,” said Talbot, who had six catches. “All of the credit goes to the offensive line; if we can’t run the football none of our routes will work out.”
Parker had a touchdown run and threw a long pass to Dangelo Aristilde that turned into a touchdown after a teammate recovered a fumble on the goal line. The Wildcats moved the ball between the 20s for most of the game, but turnovers and unstoppable Newtown attack made the game one-sided.
“We had to make some adjustments and the kids were good at executing those adjustments,” Pattison said. “(Melillo) stepped up with his running today with a few touchdowns; he’s deceptively quick, a lot of people don’t know how good of an athlete he is.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Luke Melillo, Newtown: The balanced offensive attack was led by the senior, who showed off his legs in wrapping up the win. Had touchdown runs of 10, three and 30 yards.
“I think we have a well-rounded offense,” Melillo said. “We do focus on the run more but that just opens up the passing game. It works well together.”
NEWTOWN 51, NFA 14
NEWTOWN 14 10 7 20 — 51
NFA 14 0 0 0 — 14
N—Dan Mason 3 run (Devin O’Connell kick)
NFA—Elijah Parker 12 run (kick)
N—Mason 12 run (O’Connell kick)
NFA—Kevin Pomroy 1 run (kick)
N—Luke Melillo 10 run (O’Connell kick)
N—O’Connell 36 field goal
N—Mason 4 run (O’Connell kick)
N—Melillo 3 run (kick missed)
N—Melillo 30 run (O’Connell kick)
N—Miles Ricks 88 run (O’Connell kick)
Records: Newtown 5-0, NFA 3-2.