By Bill Landon
Newfield’s No. 6 football team made it a one-point game twice in its qualifying matchup against Half Hollow Hills West Nov. 5, but couldn’t overtake the No. 3 seed, falling 35-26.
“I’m so proud of our players — they left it out on the field,” Newfield head coach Joe Piccininni said. “They played Newfield football, and we can’t be more proud of them because their effort out there on the field is a championship [in itself].”
Hills West struck first three minutes in with a 3-yard plunge into the end zone. The Colts found touchdown land again four minutes later to break out to a 14-0 lead.
Newfield senior Tom Long, who shared quarterback duties with freshman Max Martin all afternoon, helped his team to the Colts’ 22-yard line, and handed the ball off to senior running back Isaiah Israel, who slipped passed two tacklers and went the distance to break the ice for the Wolverines. Senior wide receiver and linebacker Christopher Lopez split the uprights to make it a one-score game.
With just over two minutes left in the first half on a 4th down from the 8-yard line, Long was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled looking for an open receiver. On the run, he found senior Justin Ottenwalder cutting to the corner of the end zone and threw a touchdown strike to close the gap, but when the point-after attempt failed, Newfield was left down, 14-13.
The Wolverines’ defense struggled with the Colts’ running game, which gobbled up yardage through the middle of the field, and finished a sustained drive on a short-yardage play to edge ahead 21-13 with just over a minute left in the first half.
Newfield’s’ running game stammered, and struggled to gain ground against Hills West’s defense, which caused the Wolverines to move to the air. After two consecutive pass plays, and with time running out in the second stanza, Long used his hurry-up offense to throw a deep pass to his favorite receiver, Ottenwalder, who was flying down the right sideline. He caught a 48-yard pass in stride, and Lopez’s foot made it a one-point game, 21-20, to close out the half.
At the 7:54 mark of the third quarter, Hills West’s Alexander Filacouris broke from the line and found the end zone for his third touchdown of the afternoon to put the Colts out front 28-20.
Newfield lined up in punt formation on a 4th and 7 on the 42-yard line on its next drive, and Long, who is also the punter, took the long snap and threw to Israel running over the middle, and he took the ball to the 8-yard line. Israel finished what he started, and plowed up the middle for the touchdown to trail by two points.
Newfield knew what it needed to do, and lined up for the 2-point conversion attempt to tie the game. Long rolled to his right and threw to an open Ottenwalder, but the Colts’ defense knocked the pass down.
The one-score game was short lived, and Hills West struck again with just over two minutes left in the third, and with the point-after attempt successful, stretched the lead to 35-26.
“They’re an extremely talented team, they’re big and they’re physical,” Piccininni said of the Colts. “We were down 10 points, so the only way to move the ball downfield in that amount of time was to put the ball in the air and to utilize the clock.”
With time running out, the Wolverines threw over the middle only to have a pass picked off at the 1-yard line. Hills West ran the ball up the middle to buy some time, and took two knees to seal the deal.
“I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach a great group of seniors, and watch the leadership they’ve shown,” Piccininni said. “I’m proud of our players — they left it all out in the field.”