How did I capture the game-winning touchdown reception by Riley Ward that gave Newtown its first state title since 1992?
It is a question that I have received from people I work with, people that I know, family members and people that I had not heard from in years.
The only answer is that I don’t know how. I just did it.
I was in my normal spot in the back of the end zone — 3.3 seconds left on the clock, Newtown was going to go for the end zone — with my camera zoomed in on quarterback Jack Street 36 yards away, just like every play I record.
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
When Street dropped back, I saw him prepare to throw to his right side, so I drifted my camera that way and there was Riley Ward, wide open.
I could barely see him through the fog, but he was there and so was the ball, and the rest was history, recorded in a video that had nearly 3 million views as of Sunday evening.
“My coach is my ear was like ‘He’s open, he’s open, he’s open, he’s got him!’ And I was like, did he score?” Newtown coach Bobby Pattison said. “It was so foggy, half the game I couldn’t even see.”
When he scored, myself, Shawn McFarland of the Hartford Courant and Justin DeVellis of News12, a former Newtown football player, all froze because none of us truly believed what we had just witnessed.
One thing I have learned over my career is to never stop recording until you are 100 percent sure the play and moments are over. You can always cut what you don’t use, but you can never get back something you missed.
I had no clue that Jared Dunn would run in front of my camera and start yelling “Oh my God! Oh my God!” as well as other players. But because I didn’t stop recording, that moment will live on forever, just like the memories.
You could feel the emotion in the Newtown stands and on the sidelines throughout the entire game. You could feel it grow more and more tense after Ward scored to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter
It felt like the roof — if there were a roof at McDougall Stadium — would pop off if something crazy could happen in the final minute. It did.
Yes, it was the seventh anniversary to the day of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and that can’t go unsaid.
It was also a great football moment for a program that had gotten so close to the top of high school football since 1992 and had fallen short of a state title.
— Pete Paguaga (@PetePaguaga) December 15, 2019
It was a moment for Jared Dunn, one of four Dunn brothers to play for Newtown, who told me after the game what he had said to his brother Julian: “I just told him that I loved him. I mean I did this for him. I know that all my brothers couldn’t do it, but that motivated me. I pushed myself to win the state this year.”
It was a moment for the Tarantino family, who had Tyler, Nick and Drew all play for Newtown and not win a state title. All three are coaches on the staff right now.
It was a moment for Coach Pattison, whose family moved to Newtown in 1992. He played for the Nighthawks and came back to coach them to their first title.
It was a moment for the entire town of Newtown, as fans and family swarmed the team on the field and stayed celebrating long after I left for the night.
They earned it.