NEWTOWN >> A few weeks ago, several Newtown players said they wanted to be the team to end Ansonia’s lengthy winning streak.
Actions certainly spoke louder than words when the two squared off in Friday’s highly anticipated showdown between GameTimeCT/Register Top 10 teams.
The Nighthawks’ defense suffocated the normally potent Ansonia offense en route to a thrilling 14-8 victory before 3,000 at Blue and Gold Stadium.
Fifth-ranked Newtown denied the No. 4 Chargers a chance to tie Cheshire’s state record for consecutive victories. The loss snapped Ansonia’s win streak at 48, one shy of the record.
“Before the game we didn’t want to play up the whole streak,” Newtown senior running back Jaret Devellis said. “Now, looking back at it, it’s definitely really important that we did this. We just came out here with a great mentality, prepared well, and came out and got the W.”
Ansonia’s last loss came at the hands of St. Joseph in December 2010. Since then the Chargers won three straight Naugatuck Valley League championships and three state titles in a row.
“It’s a remarkable streak,” Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said. “I don’t think it’s anything we’re going to sit back and think about tonight. But I’m sure some day when you look back at it…it’s 48 wins. It’s tough. I thought our kids were down, and they fought back. I think that’s what our kids epitomize. But again, all the credit goes to Newtown. They won the game.”
Newtown led 14-0 until Ansonia quarterback Jai’Quan McKnight connected with Tyler Bailey on a 19-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 10:14 left in the fourth quarter. McKnight ran in the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 14-8.
The Chargers (5-1) had two more chances to potentially win the game, but both times a pass fell incomplete, including one with just 30 seconds remaining.
The Newtown (6-0) defense kept Ansonia out of sync throughout. McKnight completed just 7 of 19 passes for 103 yards and an interception.
“Obviously this feels awesome,” Newtown sophomore linebacker Ben Mason said. “This hasn’t been done for 48 games. It’s just a great feeling.”
The Nighthawks dominated up front on both sides of the ball. The Chargers had 16 carries for minus-21 yards in the first half. The Newtown defense as led by Mason, junior safety Ethan Carpenter, senior linebacker Tim Krapf and junior linebacker Nick Samuelson.
“We’re obviously a pretty big team,” Mason said. “I feel like we ran sideline to sideline on defense and just kept them inside.”
Bailey finished with 38 yards on 10 carries while fellow junior running back Tajik Bagley was held to 17 yards on 10 carries. The majority of both Bailey and Bagley’s damage came in the second half.
Ansonia constructed a 17-play drive that consumed nearly seven minutes to open the third quarter, but the Chargers turned the ball over on downs at the Newtown 21.
The Nighthawks fumbled on the first play of the ensuing possession and Ansonia recovered. But the Chargers again turned the ball over on downs at Newtown’s 29.
On the next possession, Nick Rubino capped a 71-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to put the Nighthawks up 14-0.
“That was tough,” Brockett said. “We shot ourselves in the foot, but a lot of the credit goes to them. That’s a real physical football team. I thought they played great tonight. Hat’s off to them. They earned it.”
Jared Pearson scored on an 18-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to give Newtown a 7-0 lead. The score remained 7-0 until the third quarter.
Devellis gained 144 yards on 19 carries.
The Nighthawks, who completed an unbeaten regular season last year before losing in the first round of the Class LL playoffs, finally earned what Devellis called a statement victory.
“This was a big statement game for us,” Devellis said, “because Newtown’s knock was always that we couldn’t win the big one. This definitely says a lot. We’ve been strong on defense all year, and we were just waiting for the opportunity to show people how good we really are.”
Newtown 14, Ansonia 8
Ansonia 0 0 0 8 — 8
Newtown 7 0 7 0 — 14
N—Jared Pearson 18 run (Bryce Mather kick)
N—Nick Rubino 4 run (Mather kick)
A—Tyler Bailey 19 pass from Jai’Quan McKnight (McKnight run)
Team records: Newtown 6-0; Ansonia 5-1