On the anniversary of one of the darkest days in the nation's history, the Newtown High School varsity football team gave the community a reason to smile, claiming the state football championship.
The team's players, coaches and cheerleaders made an appearance on NBC-TV's "Football Night in America," on Sunday, Dec. 15, during halftime of the Sunday Night Football game between the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers, a day after winning the title over Darien in a tight 13-7 game on Saturday, Dec. 14, seven years to the day after the.
Newtown made things interesting, scoring the winning points with seconds left on the clock on a 36-yard throw from quarterback Jack Street to wideout Riley Ward to give the Nighthawks the winning points with three seconds to go.
"Football Night in America" host Mike Tirico called the win and subsequent celebration “joyful and poignant.”
Coach Bobby Pattison made an adjustment before the game-winning play, calling a timeout before his quarterback snapped the ball to change the play design.
“We saw they had a single high safety out there, and we had a double move called across the middle,” he said. “We changed it outside to a double move to the corner, the kids executed, and the rest is history.”
Street said that he had to deal with extremely foggy conditions throughout the game, which made downfield throws more difficult because Darien was wearing white jerseys.
“It was hard to go downfield,” he said. “It was hard to see the defenders, but we ultimately executed well.”
The entire team, down to the coaching staff, cheerleaders and Nighthawks mascot were on the NBC set during halftime of Sunday’s game to film a spot with Tirico.
The state championship and appearance on a nationally televised NFL game came on the seventh anniversary, to the day, of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 students and six educators were killed.
Pattison said that winning on the seven-year anniversary of the shooting made it all the more sweet for him, his team, and the community.
“That’s the great thing about football and sports in general - moments like this bring people together,” he said. “The boys had an outstanding year, and to win a state championship, and to win it on the last play of the game is quite an accomplishment. These boys deserve it.”
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