FAIRFIELD — They tore across Rafferty Stadium after the final buzzer Friday night, ripped all the way over toward the Fairfield Prep student section, gathered again with each other at midfield. Newtown’s was the kind of celebration more familiar in December than in late September.
Think this 21-14 win over the No. 10 Jesuits meant something for No. 7 Newtown?
“We’ve had sort of a rivalry,” senior Miles Ricks said, even though this was the first game between the schools. “They take a lot of our players. We didn’t like that.”
Ricks’ third-quarter 24-yard touchdown, his third run of 20 yards or better on the nine-play drive with some key blocks from the line and blocking back Jack Mulligan, turned out to be the difference.
The Nighthawks (2-0) couldn’t tack on points on three fourth-quarter trips deep into Jesuits territory, but they ultimately didn’t need to.
“(Newtown players) had this one circled on the schedule for a long time,” Nighthawks coach Bob Pattison said. “This was an opportunity for our guys to prove why you don’t leave town. Prep is a well-coached, tough team, and they battled us. At times I thought we had opportunities to put them away, and they kept on fighting.”
Fairfield Prep (1-1) put freshman Robert Long at quarterback in the second half in place of J.P. Iaropoli, who is from Newtown.
After Ricks’ touchdown, Luke Hopkins took the kickoff to near midfield, and Long led a 53-yard drive capped by his own 14-yard scamper at the third-quarter buzzer.
But Fairfield Prep went three-and-out on its next two drives, and time ran out on the Jesuits at the Newtown 36.
“We needed to execute a little bit tighter, and to finish. If we did that, in the long run, that would’ve been the difference in the game, either to be in a position to win it or to send it into overtime,” Jesuits coach Keith Hellstern said.
“We’re young, and we’re kind of growing into it, but competing’s the name of the game, and I thought our kids competed really hard. We’ll tighten it down as we move forward. We’ve got a lot to still play for, and I’m proud of them.”
Jack Street, splitting time with Brandon Lombardo at quarterback for Newtown, completed his first pass for 33 yards down the right sideline to C.J. Cuomo to set up Ricks’ 3-yard touchdown run to open the scoring with 8:04 left in the second quarter. Another 33-yard pass, Street to Riley Ward, put the Nighthawks up 14-0 with 3:53 left.
A pass-interference penalty and a 12-yard pass moved the Jesuits into Newtown territory on the next drive. Then on second down, Iaropoli found Max McGillicuddy, who turned and took a hard hit from Newtown’s Jack Zingaro, knocking both the ball and McGillicuddy’s helmet loose.
Newtown recovered, but the hit was ruled illegal, negating the fumble and tacking on 15 yards. The Nighthawks protested to no avail, and Iaropoli found Tim Pearson down the left side on the next play to get the Jesuits on the board.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Miles Ricks ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, including the game-winning touchdown. He also caught three passes for 57 yards.
The athletic Long made a few big plays.
“We had a certain package installed, and we thought it would be a great way to try to get a changeup and see how we could attack the defensively that way. It definitely helped when we did it,” Hellstern said.
“We’re very fortunate to have two very capable young men who can do that, and one who’s a bit more seasoned than the other. I think the future’s bright for us both the rest of this season and beyond.”
PICK A CONFERENCE
Newtown, from the SWC, plays three SCC Tier I teams in four weeks thanks to the state’s Scheduling Alliance. This was the first; they welcome West Haven next week and visit No. 6 Shelton on Oct. 11.
“SCC teams are tough. We need to capitalize in the red zone,” Pattison said. “We can’t leave points off the board against good teams, because it will come back to bite you. Honestly, it almost did.”
“Amazing. We used to play with their former quarterback. That brought out every ounce of competition in us. We were ready.” —Newtown’s Miles Ricks, on the feeling of this win