STRATFORD—A lot of game planning went into the idea of Bunnell senior two-way lineman C.J. Newton scoring a touchdown during Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day game against Stratford.
When those plans went awry, though, Newton found his own way into the end zone.
The 6-foot-1, 305-pound defensive tackle scooped up a fumble two yards away from the end zone and ran in for six points, all part of the Bulldogs 43-0 win over the Red Devils at Penders Field.
“It was not the way we drew up,” Bunnell coach Ty Jenkins said with a big grin.
Earlier in the first half, the Bulldogs had a first-and-goal and lined up with Newton as the lone offensive back.
Stratford sense something was going on and called a time-out.
Bunnell called up a different play and got the ball down to the Stratford-1 and Jenkins was going to call Newton’s number again.
Instead, a fumbled snap turned into a 1-yard scoring dive for Bunnell quarterback Brian Carrafiello and a 14-0 Bunnell lead.
“We fumbled it when he was supposed to get it, but he found a way to get it himself,” Jenkins said. “That’s special to me.”
On Stratford’s ensuing series, Bunnell linebacker Nick Ochoa delivered a hit that dislodged a ball from a Stratford player.
“I never saw the hit. It was out of nowhere,” Newton said. “I just knew I had to take advantage of the situation and I did. I just knew I had to pick up the ball and score.”
That goal, with a little more than one minute remaining in the first half, pushed the Stratford lead to 21-0.
With his continued dominance on defense, and helping Bunnell control both sides of the line of scrimmage, Newton was honored as the game’s MVP.
Newton said the honor didn’t mean much in the big picture.
“I just know it’s my last game and I got the dub (win) with my team,” Newton said. “I wouldn’t change that for the world. This doesn’t mean anything. It’s all about the team.”
• • •
Another senior got his moment to shine, as well, though his quest for the end zone fell short.
Tyree Hall is a senior who rarely sees the field but is a special enough kid in the Bunnell football family that he is beloved by teammates, coaches, and the fans.
Going for a two-point conversion late in the game, Jenkins gave the ball to Hall, who was tackled behind the line of scrimmage as the Bunnell fans went wild in support.
“That was the most important play of the game to me,” Jenkins said. “Tyree Hall is a kid who comes to practice every day and works his butt off. Just his attempt at that two-point conversion made his career and every Bunnell fan was up on their feet. That was special.”
• • •
It’s never easy for a new coach to come in and a win over a senior class—especially when you’re losing your first six games out of the gate.
The Bunnell High seniors, however, stood behind Jenkins for his entire first season.
“I gotta do this without getting emotional,” Jenkins said of his first senior class as varsity coach. “They’re a special group of kids. They all put their trust in me. I had a coach when I was in high school who left midway through my career and it’s not easy. But they believed in me, they trusted me and that’s unusual.”
Through the slow start, many other coaches asked Jenkins if any of his veteran players had quit on the process.
“I never had to say yes,” Jenkins said. “They stuck by me regardless. I’ve told them all what we do in the future is built on their backs this season.”
• • •
On the first series of the game, Bunnell lost junior outside linebacker Alex Reyes with concussion-like symptoms.
Reyes was hit in the helmet by a teammate while making a tackle on Stratford’s first offensive series.
He did not get cleared to return.
• • •
Aaron Williams’ return to the Stratford football team after being ineligible all season was felt immediately as he returned the opening kick-off 25 yards—the highlight, yardage-wise, of the Red Devils’ difficult day.
After that, though, the Red Devils offensive struggled the rest of the game as Stratford picked up just four first downs total.
• • •
Bunnell ended its season, winning three of its last four games to finish 3-7.
Stratford finished 0-10 and is riding a 14-game losing streak into next season.
THIS POST IS SPONSORED BY