In the end, it wasn’t to be.
After earning an undefeated regular season and the top seed in the state playoffs, the Newtown High football team fell short of a berth in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Class LL state semifinals. The 35-33 loss to Ridgefield High (Ridgefield, Conn.) ends the Nighthawks’ hopes of a state championship, which they could have competed for one day before the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
Facing Ridgefield, the Nighthawks fell behind early and struggled to keep up with the Tigers. Ridgefield built a 35-13 lead in the third quarter and appeared to have the game out of sight before Newtown put together a spirited rally. Newtown running back Cooper Gold scored a touchdown with just 16 seconds remaining in the game to trim the Ridgefield lead to two, but the ensuing two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game fell short, ending the team’s season two games shy of a state crown.
You can see video of the final touchdown and failed conversion below.
Reflecting on the missed two-point conversion, Newtown football coach Steve George told the Connecticut Post that his team easily could have won, it just didn’t take advantage of the chances it created.
"We tried to get the ball over the middle in the end zone, it's a play we work on a lot in practice," George told the Post. "Unfortunately, we didn't block too well on that play. It's a very tough loss. We had our opportunities in the red zone in the first half. We just didn't capitalize."
Newtown had dedicated its entire season to the memory of those who died in the Sandy Hook shooting, and spoke of how much a state title would mean for the school. Now the Nighthawks are left to reflect on an inspiring season that gave the town a reason to smile, even if it didn’t cross the final goal line that players and coaches had aimed for.
"This loss hurts a lot, I feel bad for our seniors, who are a great group of players," George said.
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