TRUMBULL — Trailing by two touchdowns and kicking off to start the second half in a road game isn’t really a recipe for football success.
For No. 7 Newtown, however, it worked out just fine.
After shutting down Trumbull on that first drive, the Nighthawks scored 21 unanswered points and defeated the Eagles 21-14 Friday night at McDougall Field. Newtown remained unbeaten at 3-0.
Newtown had been shut out in the first half, but the locker room mood was more anger than disappointment, according to senior Jack Chappa.
“The defense came out and we were riled up,” Chappa said. “We were ready to make play. That’s why we receive the ball in the first half and then kick it off in the second half – so we can shut them down on tat first drive. That’s a huge game changer.”
The game was a tale of two halves, with the Eagles owning a 14-0 advantage behind a string defensive effort in the first two quarters, and the Nighthawks pitching their own shutout in the third and fourth.
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Newtown got its running game going in the second half, with running backs JJ Haddick and Ayden Paulos and quarterback Jayden Cordova all scoring rushing TDs. Cordova’s TD, a nine-yard scramble with 7:28 remaining, was the game-winner.
Haddick finished with 91 yards on 11 carries, and Paulo had 46 yards on 13 carries.
“We just told them to play for our town and to believe,” Newtown first-year coach Dan Farina said. “We made some good adjustments as a staff and our kids just came out here and played a second half that was special.”
The loss was the second tough one in two weeks for Trumbull (1-2), which fell to Hamden 47-46 in double OT in Week 1.
“Tonight we just kind of found a way to lose,” Trumbull coach Marce Petroccio said. “A lot of mental mistakes, a lot of missed tackles, and penalties. You can’t play like that in a game like this against a team like that and win.
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“The first half we played very well and battled with them, but in the end they had one more touchdown than we did.”
Trumbull running back Rowan Johnston had another dynamic game with 143 yards from scrimmage. He rushed 16 times for 102 yards and a touchdown, and caught four passes for 41 yards. Just 48 of his yards came in the second half.
On Trumbull’s five second-half drives, three ended with punts, one with an interception by Bryan Reyes, and the last one ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down, after Chappa sacked quarterback Caleb Wuchiski for a 10-yard loss on third down.
“They were on the field pretty much the whole first half,” Farina said of the defense. “Our coaches came in, we kept with what we believed in, made some good adjustments and it was just a great team win and great tea effort.”
Players of the game
Newtown’s defense: The Nighthawks comeback was super-charged by the fact that Trumbull was unable to get much going in the second half. Newtown forced three punts, had one interception and three sacks, which allowed the offense time to come back.
“Ayden Paulos and JJ Haddick run with passion, they run with heart and if our line gets their blocks, which they usually do, they’re going for a big run. They’re going to run people over and get is yards.” – Newtown senior DE Jack Chappa on the Nighthawks running game.
Newtown 21, Trumbull 14