MERIDEN - Throughout the first couple weeks of the season, the Newington football team was on the hunt to find its identity.
Now the Indians are nearing the end of the season and have finally found what they were looking for on Thursday evening during their 43-20 loss to Maloney (7-1).
“We’re trying to build a reputation around being relentless,” Newington head coach Jason Pace said. “That was our common goal for the year. That was our mission.”
The Indians are known to have a tough schedule that features some of the top teams in the state, such as Middletown, Maloney, East Hartford and Wethersfield.
Newington has had two shutouts so far, a 38-0 loss to Platt and a 42-0 defeat to unbeaten Middletown last week.
“We learned from our mistakes,” Newington running back Zach Demarco said. “We’ve practiced and worked upon those mistakes and we know what we have to do moving forward. We had to come out hitting, 100 percent, high powered. Previously against those teams we didn’t come out ready and we got smacked.”
“This week we came in ready to play,” Newington defensive end Eric Sims said. “We weren’t scared at all and we came in ready to play. I think our team really stepped up this week.”
Newington was hit with adversity as soon as the game began. Newington quarterback Nick Pestrichello’s pass to receiver Izayah Ciarcia was picked off on the second play of the game, turning the ball over the Maloney. The Spartans then used that momentum to score a 28-yard rushing TD.
But that didn’t affect the Indians.
“I thought [Nick] had an excellent game,” Pace said. “He made some good reads, protected the ball. Even the interception, it seemed like the defender just took it out of the receiver’s hands. I’m not going to put that on the quarterback, because we are a team and we’ll take it as a team. At the same time I thought he played well, I thought we had more confidence.”
In his first game back since being concussed, Pestrichello connected on 11 of his 20 attempts for 74 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
The Indians’ offense was clicking on both sides of the ball, something they were unable to do in previous games.
“Offensively, I thought we were able to establish a run game, which was big for us,” Pace said. “Even against [Maloney’s] front. We were able to move the ball a little bit, convert on some fourth downs.”
Running back Dylan Nees-fair had 21 carries for 51 yards, while Ciarcia was 5-16 and Pestrichello had 3-10.
“I thought the run worked most of the time,” Nees-fair said. “We did way better than last week. There was no effort on the field last week. We all worked hard to try to achieve our goal. But overall we can still improve on everything we just have to keep working. ”
No matter how many times the Spartans scored on the Indians, they were still in the game.
Newington scored twice more in the second half. The first came near the end of the third quarter on a 15-yard pass from Pestrichello to Ciarcia and the second came with less than six minutes left in the game, on another pass, a 25-yarder, from Pestrichello, but this time to receiver and kicker Gunnar Johnson.
But, despite the improvements that were made, there’s is still plenty of work to be done.
“Defensively, we have to be able to make plays in certain situations, like third downs,” Pace said. We have to do better at tackling, we have to do a better job at getting to the ball. These are the little things that we’ve been stressing all year long that we still need to do at a high level. We need to be more consistent.”
And although the Indians were competitive on Thursday, Pace is always looking for more.
“We could have been more competitive,” Pace said. “We have some guys that will give it their all, so we have to have everyone buy in and be on the same page.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860)801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org