WETHERSFIELD â€“ Thanks to a Newtown win over Masuk, the Newington football teamâ€™s season is still alive, and will continue on in the Class L state tournament.
The teamâ€™s collective pride, however, was dealt a crushing blow in Wednesday nightâ€™s regular season finale against rival Wethersfield.
The Indians were outplayed from beginning to end, routed by the Eagles 35-0 in a contest that saw the crowd thinning by halftime, when Wethersfield held a commanding 28-0 lead.
With the loss, Newington will have to settle for one of the two bottom seeds in next weekâ€™s state tournament, where a win could have catapulted the team to as high as No. 4 overall.
â€śWe understood going in that we could really control our destiny,â€ť head coach Jason Pace said. â€śThe result here didnâ€™t reflect the season we had, so whoever we face next, we have to be ready to go.â€ť
Newington looked ready to go on Wethersfieldâ€™s opening drive, forcing a punt that started the Indiansâ€™ first possession at their own 7-yard line. But the sudden rout began on Newingtonâ€™s first play from scrimmage, when John Amaning ran into a crowd at the 10 and lost the ball. The Eagles pounced and defensive lineman Nick Thompson ran it in to give Wethersfield a quick 7-0 lead.
Things only got worse from there for Newington.
After a three-and-out for the Indians offense, the Eaglesâ€™ prolific offensive combination of quarterback Matt Silver and wide receiver Connor Pace connected for a 65-yard touchdown on their first play of the drive. Pace shed a tackle after the catch and ran the rest of the way to send the game from a scoreless tie to a 14-0 cushion in a matter of minutes.
â€śWe came out and made too many mistakes early on,â€ť Pace said. â€śThatâ€™s the bottom line. You canâ€™t come out and make the mistakes we made in the first half.â€ť
The Indians went backwards on their next drive with a false start and a fumbled snap, and after their punt was blocked on their own end of the field, Silver punched in a 3-yard score in the opening minute of the second quarter to give Wethersfield a commanding, and surprising, 21-0 advantage.
Another three-and-out by Newington gave possession right back to the Eagles, who once again torched the Indians defense thanks to Silver and Pace. Facing third and long, Silver fired a dart to Pace in the end zone, where the ball was tipped by Indians cornerback Jacob Zotti but still hauled in by Pace, who kept control off the ricochet as he fell to the wet turf with his second touchdown of the night, this one all but ending the rivalry bout before the halftime whistle, as Pace seemed to come up with big catches even on well-defended plays by Newington.
â€śWe tried to give them some different looks,â€ť Pace said. â€śYou try to make adjustments and double him on the outside, and then they got their inside run game going. Even when they go to (Pace) on a double team, he was able to make a play.â€ť
Wethersfieldâ€™s first half point total (28) nearly eclipsed Newingtonâ€™s total offensive yards (34) in the first half, and even when the Indians started finding some rhythm offensively, the Eagles were there to keep the shutout intact. Newington drove into the red zone on its first two drives of the second half, but Nick Pestrichello was picked off in the end zone before a turnover on downs on the teamâ€™s next drive, and Wethersfield provided the exclamation point with a 1-yard touchdown run by Johhny Orsini to avenge last yearâ€™s loss to the Indians.
â€śMentally, we werenâ€™t there,â€ť Amaning said. â€śI donâ€™t know what was going on. They just came to play.â€ť
Newington may not have come prepared, but it still made history by clinching its first state tournament berth in over a decade, even if it didnâ€™t come in the desired manner.
â€śYou look at the entire season, and weâ€™re proud of what we were able to accomplish,â€ť Pace said. â€śWeâ€™re going to face one of the top two seeds, so we have to come out and be at a different level that we were tonight.â€ť
Wethersfield 35, Newington 0
Newington (7-3) 0 0 0 0 â€“ 0
Wethersfield (8-2) 14 14 0 7 â€“ 35
W: Nick Thompson 10 fumble recovery (Evan Sipala kick) 6:15
W: Matt Silver 65 pass to Connor Pace (Sipala kick) 4:15
W: Silver 3 run (Sipala kick) 11:18
W: Silver 24 pass to Pace (Sipala kick) 5:01
W: Johnny Orsini 1 run (Sipala kick) 8:30
Rushing â€“ N: John Amaning 11-48. W: Orsini 18-88-TD, Silver 23-101-TD.
Passing â€“ N: Nick Pestrichello 12-23-95-INT. W: Silver 6-12-154-2TD.
Receiving â€“ N: Austyn Howe 4-39, Jordan Alexander 3-23, Jacob Zotti 2-20. W: Pace 4-144-2TD.