WEST HARTFORD â€“ On the heels of a tough matchup in Week 1, the Newington Norâ€™easters had control over the Conard Red Wolves for the majority of Thursday night. However, thereâ€™s a reason you play the full 48 minutes, as Conard didnâ€™t own a lead for the first 39:20 and were able to steal a win from Newington in Week 2.Â
â€śGames like this are tough to swallow,â€ť said Newington head coach Jason Pace. â€śGames like this really show the type of people we are and the type of people we have in the program because itâ€™s very easy at this point to separate yourself from the team and put the blame on anyone. If you want to blame anyone itâ€™s on me. I have to make sure weâ€™re prepared to finish games, and we werenâ€™t able to do that in the second half.â€ť
Newington consistently made quick work of the Red Wolvesâ€™ defense in the first half, and it began on the very first drive of the night. Senior quarterback Padraig Brown led his offense downfield in less than three minutes before sophomore running back Evan Pigott rushed for a touchdown from seven yards out for the first score of the night.
Conard continued to keep things fast-paced on their first possession of the night. Senior Brendan Grady set things up with a 19-yard rush to the Norâ€™easters 26 yard line. Junior quarterback Julian Schneider topped it with a 26-yard touchdown pass on the next play to senior wide receiver Declan McCann to tie things up just five minutes into the ballgame.
A pair of passes to senior Josiah Ross and junior Akari Rosemond combined for 47 yards and found the Norâ€™easters at the Red Wolvesâ€™ 2 yard line. Less than two minutes after Conard knotted things up Newington answered with a two-yard rush from senior Luciano Corvino.
The final stages of the first quarter gave Newington an opportunity to really open things up. Conard lost a fumble at their own 20 yard line, setting the table nicely for the visitors. A 12-yard reception to Ross got things moving, and Padraig Brown followed up with an eventual one-yard touchdown rush to build a healthy 20-7 lead by the end of the opening frame. The lead was stuck at 13, however, after a blocked extra point.
A turnover on downs by Conard once again gave Newington a chance to stack scores in the first half. Josiah Ross took full advantage of the opportunity taking a screen pass 50 yards for the score.Â
The ensuing Conard possession began with a 10-yard sack by Newingtonâ€™s Jayden Williams in what felt like one of the final plays the Norâ€™easters had complete control over the game. A few plays later Julian Schneider scrambled for a gain of 26 yards. He then hit McCann 27 yards downfield to get deep inside the red zone. McCann capped things off with a four-yard touchdown reception to narrow the gap to 27-14.
Following punts from both teams, Newington took over with 37 seconds to go in the half at their own 30 yard line. A 13-yard pass to Rosemond and a 34-yard ball to Ross took their side to the opponent 27 yard line. With a fresh set of downs and 27 yards to go, Newington squandered four-straight opportunities. Brown took four shots at the end zone but failed to connect on any of them, leaving the score 27-14 heading into the locker room.
The second half scoring was sparse compared to the first two quarters, but both sides did manage to find the end zone on their first two possessions of the third.Â
Conard had a 15-yard rush from junior Santana Edwards to close the gap back to six.
Pace explained how the Red Wolves zone running scheme was a tough one to stop noting, â€śI donâ€™t think weâ€™ve seen a stretch team like that in some time.â€ť
Newington answered right back less than 90 seconds later with a 31-yard rush from Corvino to push the lead back to 33-21. The Norâ€™easters attempted a two-point conversion to try and get the points back from the blocked extra point in the first half, but Brown was picked off on the try.
Both sides continued to play in unison as Conard suffered a turnover on downs and were followed by a bad interception from Newington on the ensuing drive.Â
The Red Wolves took over at the Norâ€™eastersâ€™ 42 yard line after the interception and a long return. A pair of rushes from Edwards kept hope alive at Conard High School as the back rumbled ahead for 16 yards before eventually finding the end zone from 19 yards out. As the third quarter wound down, Newingtonâ€™s lead had shrunk back to five points.
A long drive from Newington ended with a turnover on downs with about seven minutes to play, but an even longer drive from Conard was the difference.
The Red Wolves methodically marched into enemy territory before making their way down to the goal line. McCann took a direct snap and punched it in for the score and Conardâ€™s first lead of the night with 40 seconds to play. A two-point conversion made the score 36-33.
There was one last opportunity for Newington with 40 seconds to go if they worked quickly. Brown and company never got that chance, however, as Conard recovered an onside kick to put the game away and steal a win from Newington in the waning moments of Thursday night.
â€śWhen you donâ€™t have the ball itâ€™s hard to score points,â€ť said Pace after the Red Wolves consumed seven minutes of game time on their final drive.
The Norâ€™easters now fall to 0-2 and now find themselves playing from behind in the standings. Theyâ€™ll have a chance to make things right next Friday when they host Staples at 6:30 p.m.