Playoff-bound Masuk looks toward Newtown

As the season unfolded and Masuk High’s football team’s dominance continued it wasn’t a matter of if, but rather when the Panthers would secure a spot in the Class L state playoffs.

Coach Joe Lato’s team officially locked up their spot in the bracket with a 50-0 triumph over host New Milford on a sub-freezing, windy night, two weeks ago.

The Panthers improved to 9-0 as they head into the regular-season finale, the annual Thanksgiving Eve clash with Newtown.

This year’s game will be played in Monroe, with Nov. 22 kickoff set for 7 p.m.

“I am happy for the team because they needed to qualify for the playoffs to chase one of their goals,” Lato said. “It’s also a chance for the team to stay together. The greatest gift a football player can get is one more game. The team really earned that gift. With that said, our focus is on Newtown.”

The triumph over South-West Conference rival New Milford marks Masuk’s second straight 50-0 triumph and third such outcome by that score this season (New London).

“On defense we did a nice job of adapting to an offense we did not anticipate seeing,” Lato said. “New Milford ran a swinging-gate style offense which we never faced all year, nor has New Milford shown it this season. The kids adapted very quickly and played outstanding defensively.

“On offense, we were able to make big plays on the ground and in the air, despite the unfavorable weather conditions.”

Heading into the final week as the top seed in Class L, the Panthers have to be looked at as serious contenders for a championship, but Lato won’t look past the first round. Actually, he isn’t thinking ahead of the Newtown game for now.

“We will cross that bridge when we get there. Our mission right now is to improve every day so we can play our best game against Newtown,” Lato said.

The Panthers may have surprised some people, but they anticipated having a strong campaign given what transpired a year ago.

“I am sure the team felt confident coming into the season. We went 7-4 last year but every game we lost literally came down to the final minute. We had the majority of the team come back plus (wide receiver) Nick Lorusso returned to play his senior year,” Lato said.

Masuk’s season-low point total in a game came in the team’s closest contest, a 36-13 triumph over Joel Barlow of Redding.

Given the domination the Panthers have had in games it could prove to be a disadvantage come state playoff time given they have yet to be truly tested. On the other hand, these blowouts could just speak to how good the Panthers are.

“I really don’t know. What I do like about this team is that we are always striving to get better regardless of what the scoreboard reads,” Lato said.

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