MADISON, CT — Head Coach Matt Duffy’s fourth-grade Monroe Lions youth football team took a 10-0 record into the AYF Shoreline Championship game against Newtown Saturday and built a 12-6 halftime lead. But the Lions lost their momentum the rest of the way in a 26-12 defeat.
After the game, Duffy said his coaching staff’s message to the kids was to hold their heads high, because “they have a ton to be proud of and a lot of football to go.”
Though the Lions had won 12 straight games dating back to last season, there were some close calls along the way. Duffy remembers when his team had to battle back from a 13-12 deficit on the road against Pomperaug in the season opener.
The Lions’ offense had to drive 70 yards with about minute-and-a-half left in the game. Quarterback Brian Marini completed three long passes, before scoring on a one yard run with only 1.8 seconds left on the clock, as Monroe pulled out an impressive 18-13 victory.
“The kids really came together and had a newfound sense of teamwork and confidence,” Duffy said. “The best thing about this team is they’ve been in adverse circumstances and never crumbled. For 9-years-olds, they never had any quit in them.”
The Lions compiled an 8-0 regular season record, while outscoring their opponents 191-32 with five shutouts.
The team has 30 players, including 29 boys and one girl and eight different players scored touchdowns throughout the season, according to Duffy.
“The best thing about this team is they’ve been in adverse circumstances and never crumbled. For 9-years-olds, they never had any quit in them.” — Lions Head Coach Matt Duffy
The coaching staff also includes assistant coaches Toby Alvarez, Will Schule, Brian Marini, Mike Swezey, Chris Deloge and John Dunlavey. The team manager is Kara Swezey.
“We have an unbelievable group of kids, coaches and supportive parents and a phenomenal football culture in Monroe,” Duffy said.
A playoff run
In the first round of the AYF Shoreline playoffs, the No. 1 ranked Lions beat Wallingford 25-0.
Then they came from behind to beat Southington 19-13 in the second round, earning a trip to the Championship game on Saturday.
The Lions felt confident going into the game at the Surf Club in Madison. Newton had a 9-1 record, but it’s only defeat was a 19-6 loss at home to the Lions on Oct. 1.
Monroe scored quickly on its first drive when Marini broke free for a 66 yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage, giving the Lions a 6-0 lead only seconds into the game. Newtown’s defense stopped the extra point conversion.
Newtown later scored a touchdown on a 30-yard catch and run in the second quarter, but the Lions defense stopped the conversion to prevent them from taking the lead.
Marini later scored on a 48 yard run to break the tie and put the Lions back on top, 12-6.
The Lions’ defense dominated in the first half, but the tide quickly turned in the third quarter.
On its first play from scrimmage, Newtown tied the game on a 48 yard catch and run, during which its ball carrier broke several tackles on his way to the end zone.
The Lions’ defense stopped the extra point conversion to keep the score even at 12-12.
The Lions’ offense couldn’t get anything going in the second half and Newtown scored two more touchdowns to seal a 26-12 victory.
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