Under bright lights and a light fog, the Newtown Nighthawks on Saturday won the Connecticut Class LL high school football championship seven years to the day after a tragic school shooting changed their town forever.
Quarterback Jack Street and several other members of the team were students at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14, 2012, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children. Some, like linebacker Ben Pinto, lost siblings in the tragedy.
“It’s always so difficult to explain what it feels like to hold grief in your heart while celebrating these precious moments,” Ben’s mother, Tricia Pinto, said about the win. “Our grief sometimes gets lost in this story of survival. That’s not our story. Our story is of loss and of love.”
Athletic and town officials initially considered rescheduling Saturday’s game in Trumbull, Conn., so it would not coincide with the painful anniversary. After consulting with the high school principal, athletic director, team members, and families who lost loved ones, officials decided to play the game as scheduled.
“They wanted to play,” Newtown Superintendent of Schools Lorrie Rodrigue said.
Town officials plan to host a celebration commemorating Saturday’s 13-7 win over the Darien Blue Wave, decided by a 36-yard touchdown pass as time expired. But they noted that while victory marked this year’s anniversary, it does not erase the heartbreak of seven years ago. —L.E.