The lights at Newton’s football field stayed on longer than usual Friday evening after its team capped off a 42-7 win over Mountain Lakes.
That extra time gave Newton some extra time to reflect on what was a strange, trying season for everyone throughout the country.
It was a scene that, six months ago, Newton could not even imagine.
Over the summer, coach Matt Parzero was one of several potential candidates to have his position cut from the school district as the pandemic took its toll financially. Overwhelming support from the players and community proved just how much it had its coach’s back.
Newton would find another hurdle in the form of an early-season shutdown, missing the first two games of the season.
“There was a lot of uncertainty,” Parzero said. “That’s for sure. We knew that it could end at any time. We saw teams around us get shut down and, especially at this point of the year, there’s no coming back from that.”
It was never easy for Newton but, through it all, it braved its way to perfection. Friday night’s dominant win over Mountain Lakes was just the perfect end to an imperfect 2020.
“To have this game for these guys is an outstanding cap to a season,” Parzero said. “I know guys are disappointed there are no true section champions and having a chance to play in a bowl game. But they made the most of it. They focused on what we did have and not what they didn’t have.”
The victory also marked Newton’s last game as the school district announced Friday that it would be reverting to all-virtual learning and that all extracurricular activities.
In a way, it was a comforting thought that this moment was the last time Newton would take its football field. After so many trials and tribulations, Newton could finish its season on its own terms without having to look over its shoulder when the next shutdown would be arriving.
“You don’t know when you have to start collecting equipment as a coach,” Parzero said. “Not too many teams get that luxury to finish their last game at home and finish off an undefeated season.
“You never know when that moment is going to be. We talked a lot about taking advantage of opportunities that are presented. It was a different approach this year. They saw that it could be taken away at any time but they made the most of it.”
Added senior Peyton Nolan, “We topped off a perfect season and it’s the best thing that could have happened this year.”
Even without a sectional title, Newton played as though everything was on the line Friday night. The offense garnered over 600 yards of total offense with Nolan scoring four times and the Jack Young-Aaron Fantasia connecting for two scores.
Defensively Newton’s only misstep was allowing a touchdown on a halfback pass. Outside of that, the unit intercepted three passes and only allowed two red zone trips all