Pomperaug falls in division opener


The Pomperaug Panthers dropped to 2-1 Friday night versus a very good Newtown Nighthawks squad. The final score was 49-3. Coming into the game Newtown already had two wins under its belt, having beaten New Milford 47-18 on Sept. 12 and Bunnell 47-0 on Sept. 19.

Pomperaug knew they had a tough task in hand. Head Coach James Reed said, “They’re (Newtown) the best team in the league; they were the last two years, and they still are.”

It looked early on as if the Panthers defense would allow them to hang tight with the Nighthawks. After an opening three-and-out for the Panthers, Newtown engineered a long drive that used their running game effectively. The Panthers defense seemed up to the task, blowing up quite a few opening drive rushes.

Newtown converted a big fourth-down try that helped to get their offense rolling for the night. Capped off by an 8-yard rushing touchdown by Jared Peerson, the Nighthawks were in front 6-0 after they missed the extra point.

The second quarter was where Newtown did most of their damage for the night, often choosing to air it out to their star wide receiver, Julian Dunn. Coach Reed said an argument could be made that Dunn is the best player in the state. “There was one play we deflected a pass and he still caught it,” said Reed.

Dunn caught two second-quarter touchdown passes from quarterback Jacob Burden. The Nighthawks added 23 points in the second quarter, upping their lead to 35-0.

The Panthers were unable to respond to the quick tempo Newtown maintained all night long. Their early attempt at establishing the run wasn’t working so well, and the Nighthawks were winning the crucial battle of field position early and often. “We got buried on our half of the field for much of the first half,” said Reed.

Panther quarterback Wade Prajer kept trying to get his offense going by using his feet to create plays, but the stingy Newtown defense wouldn’t budge. The Panthers started most of their drives in the first half inside their own 20 and were unable to move past midfield in the first half. This led to Newtown bringing their offense onto the field around midfield on most drives.

Coach Reed attributed the success of the Newtown defense to the quickness with which their line-backers and safeties closed holes on Pomperaug.

Despite being down 35-0 at halftime, the Panthers still had fight left in them. On the opening kickoff, the Panthers recovered a fumble, finally setting them up with great field position. The Panthers pounded the ball closer on hard, grinding carries by running back Mike Curcio, setting them up for a field goal try. Senior kicker Griffin Kutzner nailed an absolutely perfect kick from 33 yards away, putting the Panthers on the board.

The Panther defense also stiffened in the second half, slowing down the Nighthawks and allowing only 14 points. Despite the one-sided score, the Panthers were still playing hard. Linebacker Mike Foschi put in an excellent effort chasing down Newtown running back Jaret DeVellis and making a diving tackle at the 2-yard line to momentarily save a touchdown.

While the night hadn’t gone as planned for the Panthers, Coach Reed wasn’t going to dwell on it. “New Milford next week, that’s the big priority now,” he said. Pomperaug will have to get over Friday night’s loss quickly as they are back on the road Thursday at New Milford.

The Panthers shouldn’t get down on themselves. They had a tough task of going on the road and playing a team that has been one of the class LL powerhouses over the last few years. Newtown came into the game ranked No. 5 in the state. Newtown also is in the top five in passing yards and rushing yards in the state.

The Panthers’ offense should be able to boost more success versus New Milford (0-3) Thursday night. The New Milford defense has given up as many as 29 points a game while losing its first three games this season. The game Thursday night in New Milford will start at 7 p.m.


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