NEWINGTON - After riding the exhilarating highs of a 2-0 start, including a statement win against Windsor on opening night, the Newington football team traveled to Amity in Week 3 and were dealt a valuable lesson: there is still plenty of work to do and the Indians can’t afford to overlook anybody on their schedule.
“I don’t think we were as focused as we should have been,” senior Mike Maslauskas said of Newington’s 7-3 loss at Amity last Friday. “There were a lot of things that went into losing that game, but we have to be more focused and more energized.”
The Indians’ focus now shifts to RHAM, who visit Alumni Field for a Friday matinee due to EEE virus hazards throughout the state. The Sachems are 0-3 and have lost all three games by at least three scores, but Newington’s loss to Amity enlightened the team to the fact that any team is capable of beating them, especially after the Spartans held the Indians to just three points following a blowout loss to Simsbury the week before.
“The loss was unfortunate,” junior A.J. Ferreira said. “We thought we had a chance to have a better record than we have right now. But at the same time we just have to bounce back and perform this week.”
To do that, Newington needs to see an improvement on the offensive end. After combining to score 72 points the first two games of the season, the Indians managed just a field goal from Ferreira against Amity. It was a rare misstep for an offense that showed no weakness against Bristol Eastern in Week 2, even after losing all-conference wide receiver Izayah Ciarcia for the season with an ankle injury.
“We couldn’t finish drives,” head coach Jason Pace said. “Our passing game really wasn’t there. I give Amity and their coaches a lot of credit for executing their game plan and making us struggle to get the ball down the field.”
Pace credits the Spartans’ defensive front as the best Newington has seen all season, consistently disrupting quarterback Nick Pestrichello in passing situations, so the Indians made sure Pestrichello and the offense would be more prepared against the Sachems’ defense on Friday, which returned senior defensive end Andrew Keene this year, one of the team’s leading tacklers in 2018.
“We created a situation in practice that simulated pressure situations,” Pace explained. “We did a lot of passing under pressure this week, creating contact with bags so Nick can experience that pressure. We really worked on that to see how we can respond to pressure. Hopefully come [Friday] we’re prepared for that.”
Newington may have had struggles on offense last week, but RHAM has been laboring to score points all season. After losing quarterback Cal Redman, a Second Team All-State pick last year, the Sachems’ scoring attack has been gutted following an 8-2 campaign last year. Through three games to start this season, RHAM has yet to put a point on the board, which bodes well for an Indians defense that has allowed just 14 points in their last two games. Still, as they learned with Amity, past performance doesn’t matter once the opening kickoff takes flight.
“They’ve been able to drive the ball quite a bit in certain situations, but just haven’t been able to finish,” Pace said. “They also played three quality football teams. Platt is a good football team, and East Lyme and Middletown are undefeated. So we know it’s a team we can’t underestimate. They’re well-coached and organized, but maybe just inexperienced and young. They’ll look better as the season goes along.”
But the Indians learned their lesson last week. After being kept out of the end zone for four quarters, they’re looking to correct what went wrong in what was the team’s first adversity of the season.
“We’re focused,” Maslauskas said. “We want to put up as many points as possible. We want more than 40. We know what we’re capable of, but we didn’t show it last week. So we’re coming with a new intensity. We’re ready.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com