The Newtown High School football team ended the season on an incredible note.
In the final play of the Connecticut Class LL State Championship game, the Nighthawks quarterback Jack Street threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Riley Ward, securing a 13-7 win over Darien High School.
"Absolutely amazing," Newtown coach Bobby Pattison told the Hartford Courant after the game. "I’m so proud of my kids for not giving up. We had moments in that game where it didn’t look too good for Newtown ... I’m so proud of the kids. I couldn’t be happier."
The victory was notable for two reasons: 1) It marked the school's first state title win in 27 years; and 2) It occurred exactly seven years after its town was devastated by one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.
On Dec. 14, 2012, six adults and 20 children were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. According to GameTimeCT, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference had discussed moving the championship game, which was held at at Trumbull High, to Sunday, as there was concern that the anniversary would "put unwanted stress on the players, school, and community." However, after the Newtown High principal and athletic director consulted with the team, it was decided that the championship game would take place on the originally scheduled date.
Prior to Saturday's match-up, Newtown superintendent Lorrie Rodrigue released a statement asking all media outlets to refrain from asking the players about the Sandy Hook anniversary. GameTimeCT reports several of the athletes were inside the school at the time of the shooting.
"We have respectfully asked media over the years to honor our community’s request to remember and grieve privately for those we lost on 12/14,” Rodrigue said. "[With the game] being played on the anniversary, we wanted the media to respect our students, staff, and families while they are attending the game. The focus should remain on the athletes and the opportunity they have to compete for the state championship."