ANSONIA >> In the closing minutes of Ansonia’s convincing victory over rival Woodland in the Class S state championship game, Chargers coach Tom Brockett pulled his starters, who hoisted standout running back Arkeel Newsome onto their shoulders and carried him off the field to a rousing ovation from the Ansonia faithful.
It was a fitting tribute to Newsome, who rewrote the state record book during his remarkable four-year career in which he rushed for 10,672 yards, scored 187 total touchdowns and amassed 1,162 points, all state records.
Newsome, the 2013 Register State Player of the Year, set single-season state records with 3,867 yards, 68 touchdowns and 422 points. It marked the second time Newsome won the Register’s top football honor. Newsome was also named player of the year following his sophomore season in 2011. Despite being hampered by an ankle injury during his junior season, Newsome still rushed for 2,242 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2012.
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“It’s hard not to put him as the best,” Brockett said. “One thing you can’t argue is that he’s had the best career in the history of any Connecticut player, ever. You can argue different players, and different generations, and different eras and different players, but you can’t argue that it’s the greatest career in Connecticut history.”
The 5-foot-8, 181-pound Newsome is the ninth player in national high school football history, and first in Connecticut, to go over 10,000 yards for his career. His career touchdown total ranks third all-time nationally. Newsome finished as the nation’s top rusher this season, according to MaxPreps. That publication also selected him to its Small Schools All-American team.
“What he’s done, he’s put himself on a national level, and not just a state level,” Brockett said.
Most of the state records Newsome broke were previously held by former Ansonia star Alex Thomas, who went on to have a successful career at Yale.
“After Alex, you never thought anybody would be better than him,” Ansonia senior lineman Matt Simon said.
“Arkeel, he just dominated.”
Simon said he and the other linemen never felt slighted by Newsome garnering most of the recognition and attention.
“I get asked this a lot, but when he scores, we score — that’s the kind of mentality we live with,” Simon said.
“Blocking for him was great. The records he’s put up, we kind of feel we helped him with that. We really appreciated blocking for him.”
Despite Newsome’s individual accomplishments, he is most proud of what the team achieved during his career.
Ansonia’s 51-12 victory over Woodland in the Class S final was the Chargers’ third straight state championship and 43rd victory in a row. Ansonia became the first team in state history win 15 games in a season, and the Chargers capped their perfect year by finishing as the No. 1 team in the final Register Top 10 Poll.
“I had a great career, but so did my team,” Newsome said. “We won three straight state championships and went 43-0. To take that all in is just a great feeling, especially knowing we got No. 1 in the state.”
Newsome, who has orally committed to play at UConn, said he never could have imagined the type of career he would have when he first put on the Chargers jersey. But his recipe for success is a simple one.
“The work ethic,” Newsome said, “All the work I put in, me and the team, and dedication to football.”
Even Brockett wasn’t sure what to expect when Newsome arrived at Ansonia High as an undersized freshman.
“You never know when they’re that young,” Brockett said. “We had a feeling he would be good because he was so fast, but he was so small as a freshman.”
Brockett said Newsome improved each season and gained weight and strength, which allowed Newsome to become an every-down back. That, combined with natural talent and speed, were the ingredients that propelled Newsome to superstar status.
“He was 150 pounds as a sophomore, but he got bigger, he got stronger, he got faster,” Brockett said. “He really grew into his body and role. His skill set is really off the chart. The whole mix of his vision and speed, his balance, and what I really think is great is his ability to cut on a dime. He can make cuts going at a speed that most people can’t.”
Newsome let his talent speak for itself, led by example and was never a real vocal player … except for a few times.
“He definitely yelled at us,” Simon said with a smile. “If we did something wrong, we would know about it. He’s quiet a lot of the time, but when he has something to say, he’s going to say it. He’s not afraid to tell you.”
Despite the fame and fanfare Newsome attracted during his career, he remained humble.
“We never had to pull him back and say, ‘Hey, your head’s getting too big,’” Brockett said. “You never saw him wanting to showboat or do anything stupid. Obviously, with a great player like that, everyone is going to want to try and take an extra shot, but he just handled everything with such class.”