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NEW FAIRFIELD — Masuk senior Jeff Nugent transferred home for nights like this.

Nugent scored three times — two short touchdown runs and one on a screen pass — to help the Panthers ride to a comfortable 43-12 win over New Fairfield Friday night. He went over 100 yards on the ground as Masuk’s new option wrinkle stymied the opposition.

Nugent spent two years at Hamden Hall — primarily for lacrosse — but felt he had unfinished business on the gridiron and returned for his final season. If the opening act was any indication, the Panthers have a major weapon on their hands.

“I’m really happy to be back,” Nugent said. “These are the kids who I grew up with, and this is a great way to start the season. We knew we needed to punch them first and that set the tone for us.”

“When he finally said he was coming back we were excited, we know what kind of athlete he is,” Panthers coach Joe Lato said. “He’s a Division I lacrosse player (committed to Richmond. He can play football, too. He’s a great kid, too. He’s the total package and we’re very lucky he came back to finish his senior year with us.”

Sophomore quarterback Nick Saccu ensured his first start was a winning one as he threw for a score and ran for another. The Panthers jumped on the hosts for two quick scores to build a 15-0 lead, then rode their defense the rest of the way.

The night served as a notice of intent for the Panthers, who appear set on making a postseason charge after a year out.

“We’ve been kind of disrespected and haven’t had that same respect coming out as a powerhouse of the SWC and Class L,” Nugent said. “We can make a statement this year and we’re going to.”

It was a difficult night for the Rebels, who had several snap issues, including one that went over their punter’s head for a safety. Masuk won the line of scrimmage, which sent New Fairfield’s ground game and pass attack into disarray.

“They outplayed us up front and they were in our backfield all day,” New Fairfield coach Anthony Fata said. “We didn’t have an answer for their physicality. We couldn’t execute anything offensively because they came to play.”

Masuk kept its foot down in the second half, and Chris Tillotson found the end zone on a 69-yard run to make it 36-6 in the third. Daniel Verrastro added a score in the fourth for the Panthers, who added an option element to their offense in the offseason.

“It’s a credit to the kids and how seriously they take the sport,” Lato said. “We’re proud of the way they played and adapted to a slightly different system. Slightly different, it’s like Coke and Pepsi.”


JT Thuesen made an impact on both sides of the ball for the Rebels, first hauling in an interception in the end zone on fourth down before catching a 56-yard touchdown from Matt Constantinides to put his team on the board. He also hauled in another long catch — and second touchdown late in the fourth — and finished with more than 100 receiving yards.


Week 2 will feature the first of several matchups as part of the statewide scheduling alliance, and both teams draw difficult opponents. Masuk will make the long trip to Windsor while New Fairfield visits Class S favorite Sheehan. Most SWC coaches were lukewarm about the setup prior to the season.

“It is what it is. It’s the schedule they prepared for us and we have to prepare for them like any other team,” Lato said.


“We have weapons, but we need the time to throw it to them,” Fata said. “We’ll clean it up. ... It’s not going to get any easier with Sheehan. It seems like every year we have to survive the first couple of weeks. We will, I have full faith in this team.”,