SHELTON — They were two heavyweight teams throwing punches back and forth in the second half, until Newtown’s defense blocked a couple from Shelton.
Two big stops let the No. 5 Nighthawks take control and remain unbeaten, beating No. 10 Shelton 34-24 Friday night at Finn Stadium.
Newtown stopped the Gaels on fourth-and-1 near midfield after tying the game, and Jared Dunn caught a 35-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to take the lead for good.
Then James Knox forced a fumble on third-and-long, giving Newtown the ball back on the Shelton 5. Devin O’Connell’s field goal made it a 10-point game.
“It was going to be a hard-nosed battle, going to come down to who had the more grit,” Dunn said. “Our team, we knew what was coming. We executed perfectly. I’m so proud of my brothers over there. I’m excited. I’m real excited.”
Newtown is 5-0 after sweeping through Fairfield Prep, West Haven and the Gaels in the SCC portion of their state scheduling alliance slate. Shelton, which lost to Cheshire a week ago, fell to 3-2.
Both teams have next week off.
With the ball and the wind to start the second half, Shelton ran eight straight times to get inside the Newtown 10, then settled for Cristiano Rosa’s 23-yard field goal.
Newtown answered with a nine-play drive, Jack Street hitting Jeff Garrity for a 5-yard touchdown, to tie the game.
And then Newtown’s defense stopped the back-and-forth.
“We had the ball, we knew it was kind of possession/possession,” Shelton coach Jeff Roy said. “It was fourth-and-1. We went for it. I believe in my kids. My linemen, we’re pretty big up front. They’ve got some big dudes, too, and they made a nice stop. They got momentum from there.”
Including that drive on which the Nighthawks held on fourth down, Shelton netted 4 yards on three drives before a long touchdown drive capped the scoring but left just 58 seconds on the clock.
“Shelton is very much like us in the sense that they run a lot of different personnel sets and formations,” Newtown coach Bobby Pattison said.
“I feel like they’ve got 15 different offensive formations they run this year. We’ve got a plan for every one, and they were showing us some formations we haven’t really seen, so we had to make some adjustments, and we did.”
Garrity ran for a touchdown to put it away late.
Tyler Pjatak ran for two scores for the Gaels, and Chris Thompson returned a kickoff 74 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter after O’Connell’s first field goal put the Nighthawks up 3-0.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Brandon Lombardo threw for two touchdowns and picked up some big gains on the ground, too.
NEXT MAN UP
Newtown running back/safety Miles Ricks came off the field after Shelton’s first drive of the second half hurting. He had a bruised hand, and his offensive night was done.
Enter junior back Luke Hannan, who ran the ball 10 times in the second half for 47 yards, including a 30-yard gain on the game-tying drive.
“I was really hurting (for Ricks) myself, but Luke’s a solid player. He stepped up to the occasion and got the job done. That’s all we needed,” Dunn said. “It’s hard to fill Miles’ shoes, but he did a great job tonight.”
While Newtown has won 16 consecutive regular-season games, the Gaels have lost two in a row for the first time since Nov. 4-11, 2016, against Fairfield Prep and West Haven.
“We’ve got a tough schedule, but the kids laid everything on the field,” Roy said.
“Our whole team just worked together perfectly. We stuck to our plan. We worked hard. That’s how we work.” —Newtown fullback/linebacker Jared Dunn