Senior players and coaches from the Newington High School football team following the Nor’easters 17-14 victory over Wethersfield on Nov. 23.
Newington football defeated Wethersfield 17-14 to win the 46th annual Thanksgiving Classic in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Cottone Field on Nov. 23.
Playing in his final game, senior quarterback Paddy Brown ran for and threw a touchdown and kicked a crucial field goal as Newington dealt Wethersfield only their second loss of the season.
“To go out this way with the guys I’ve played with since youth is really awesome,” said Brown. “This means everything.
We’ve put in so much hard work over the years, and it is good to have that feeling of getting a win and going out like this to end our high school careers.”
Wethersfield, who entered the game having won eight of nine games this fall, was seeking to avenge a 28-20 loss to their neighboring rivals at Alumni Field in Newington a year ago.
Early on it looked like the Eagles would get revenge, marching 72 yards in 10 plays on the team’s second possession. The drive culminated with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Cam Righi to Ethan Lemos with four minutes left in the opening quarter.
Newington responded on the following drive, covering 70 yards in seven plays. Brown called his own number on the seventh play, following blockers around the left end for a 14-yard rushing touchdown.
Midway through the second quarter, punter Ishaak Ileaasu flipped field position when he pooched a punt down to the one-yard line.
On the following possession, Newington capitalized on a short field goal by driving seven plays and scoring with two seconds left in the half when Brown connected with Akari Rosemond on a back-shoulder fade from 10-yards out.
The last second touchdown was one of many momentum shifting plays that Brown and his receivers made on the night.
“It was just about our guys getting open and us doing our jobs,” said Brown.
Newington then went on a monster 15-play drive to start the second half, taking seven minutes and 26 seconds off the clock before Brown, who is also the team’s kicker, split the uprights from 29-yards out, upping the road team’s leads to 17-7.
Head coach Jason Pace credited his savvy, do-it-all signal caller, calling Brown “a true warrior.”
“Paddy has never wavered from what we stand for and our core values. He understands how to approach every single game the right way and he’s been a leader on and off the field,” added Pace. “He has done everything we ask of him.”
After running only three offensive plays in the third quarter, Wethersfield’s defense responded in the final quarter by creating two turnovers.
The first was a fumble recovery by Nicholas Guglielmo, which led to a spectacular 29-scoring run by Righi to cut the deficit to three points with 6:45 left in regulation.
On the following possession, Justin Nadella picked off Brown at the Newington 44-yard line. Wethersfield was unable to capitalize as Newington’s Aiden Bengtson deflected a Righi pass on fourth down.
The Eagles had one final chance, but Righi was intercepted by Chase Leonard with 1:52 to play in regulation.
“The play before I had messed up and my coach had yelled at me from the sidelines. The next play he threw it right to where I was supposed to be, and I just picked it off,” said Leonard, who joked. “I blacked out after that. I don’t remember anything after that play.”
Brown praised Leonard and the defense, adding, “They stepped up. They are the reason why we won this game.”
A first down run by Brown sealed the victory and allowed Newington to keep the trophy for at least one more year.
Newington controlled time of possession, particularly in the second half, and Pace credited his unsung heroes up front, led by seniors Amari Rosemond, Victor Wolak, and Elijah Smith.
“We knew [Wethersfield] was a physical football team that likes to control the game through their rushing attacking, which has led to a lot of wins for them. We understood that we were going to have to stop the run and for the most part we bottled it up and offensively we were able to establish the run,” said Pace. “I’m proud of those guys. They are the guys that don’t ever get the credit, but they put in the work, and they really fought and battled.”
The victory was big in more ways than one. Along with providing bragging rights, it also provided a positive finish to a difficult season for the Nor’easters.
Newington started the season with six straight losses—four by a single score. They rebounded to win three of their final four, finishing 3-7.
“It’s just great to be able to finish the season this way. We’ve had our challenges throughout the year, a lot of close games, a tough schedule, but we’ve never made excuses,” said Pace. “I’m proud of this group for putting it all together and finishing this game.”
For Brown and the seniors, the game against Wethersfield was the equivalent to a state championship game.
“The season may have not gone the way we wanted it to, but we were able to end it the way we wanted it, with a win,” said Brown.
Running back Luca Corvino, who was the team’s leading rusher this season, said the seniors were talking about this game even before the season had started.
“This is the one that matters,” added Corvino. “For most of us, this is the last four quarters that we will ever play. We left it all out there.”
Back in 2019, when the seniors were freshman, Wethersfield beat Newington 35-0 at Cottone Field.
“In my book that was a big motivator. We couldn't let that happen again,” said Leonard. “This is how we wanted to end our season as seniors.”
For Wethersfield, the loss snapped a six-game winning streak, and concluded an 8-2 regular season.
Prior to the game against Newington, the Eagles had already clinched a spot in the Class MM playoffs, yet head coach Matt McKinnon made no excuses for the loss.
“Hats off to Newington. They did a really nice job on defense,” said McKinnon, who said his defense gave the team a chance to win with the two fourth-quarter turnovers.
“We knew that was our chance to win the game, but a couple of things just didn’t go right,” added McKinnon. “The effort was there; we just have to do better.”
Newington now holds a 25-20-1 advantage in the series, which first started in 1976 with Newington winning the initial battle 24-22.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin