NEW HAVEN — Newtown football has been almost everywhere in the month since that emotional, improbable night in the fog at Trumbull’s McDougall Stadium. But this Saturday morning was about their outside linebacker.
The Walter Camp Football Foundation’s UCAN Inspire Award went to Nighthawks senior Ben Pinto at the 13th-annual Breakfast of Champions at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale.
“Just being in a place like this with a lot of people like this, being recognized was a very cool moment,” said Pinto, who received a standing ovation after a video tribute.
Pinto was a starter for Newtown, which won the Class LL final 13-7 over Darien on the last play of the game on Dec. 14.
That came seven years to the day after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Pinto’s younger brother, Jack, was one of the 20 students who died.
“For me it means something different than the man next to me,” Pinto said, “but everyone has a connection to this and that, and bringing home that championship was definitely something special to the community.”
WOW! Holy crap. Newtown wins the CLASSS LL title 13-7 over Darien I’m the final play Jack Street hits Riley Ward for 36-yard TD #cthsfb
Newtown’s first state title since 1992 pic.twitter.com/BfSMc0rNIy
— Pete Paguaga (@PetePaguaga) December 14, 2019
The confluence of the anniversary, the championship, the way it ended and the misty ambience drew national attention.
It was Newtown’s first championship in 27 years. Five players were honored at the breakfast as Walter Camp All-Connecticut first- or second-team players, and Bobby Pattison was named the state’s Coach of the Year.
Five weeks later, Pinto’s memories of that night are of a lot of emotion and a lot of people.
“It was a great win, obviously,” Pinto said. “It was more than just that for me on that day, but definitely a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Players and coaches made a bunch of television and radio appearances after the victory.
“It’s been crazy. A lot of emotions. A lot of support from everyone,” Pinto said. “Definitely, it was a great experience. It’s still a little surreal, but it’s a great moment.”
The breakfast honored Newtown and the other three CIAC champions, Class L St. Joseph, Class M Weston and Class S Sheehan.
Four-year St. Joseph star running back Jaden Shirden was named Player of the Year.
“It’s a great way to cap off my career,” Shirden said. “I want to thank the people who’ve helped me along the way. It’s a great honor. I just want to thank God. I’m looking forward to the next level as well.”
Former Hand coach Steve Filippone received the Lifetime Achievement Award.