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Newtown High School wins state football championship on anniversary of Sandy Hook shooting

The Newtown football team won its first state title in 27 years on a last-second touchdown pass on the seven-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting.
/ Source: TODAY

For the past seven years, Dec. 14 has been a somber day for people in Newtown, Connecticut, to mourn the 26 children and educators who were killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

But on Saturday night, the Newtown High School football team gave the town something to cheer about, as the team won its first state championship in 27 years in storybook fashion.

A team that featured the older brother of one of the Sandy Hook victims as well as several players who attended Sandy Hook ended up winning on a 36-yard touchdown pass through the fog on the final play of the game to beat Darien High School 13-7 for their first state title since 1992.

The Newtown High School football team savored an incredible state title that came on the seven-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Kassi Jackson / AP

"The great thing about football and sports in general is moments like this, it brings people together,'' Newtown head coach Bobby Pattison told Mike Tirico as his team was honored on NBC's "Sunday Night Football."

"These guys had an outstanding year. To win a state championship is a tremendous accomplishment and these boys deserve it. They're a great bunch."

Junior quarterback Jack Street launched a pass through the fog and rain with three seconds left in regulation of the Class LL state final that fell into the arms of senior wide receiver Riley Ward for a touchdown that will live forever in Newtown lore.

Ward ripped his helmet off and tossed it in the air in celebration as pandemonium erupted after the incredible ending.

"For a second, I was like the last one to run on the field, and I had nobody to hug, because I was like, 'Wait, did that really just happen?'" Pattison said.

The victory capped an undefeated season for the Nighthawks and formed a new and inspiring memory on a difficult day for players like linebacker Ben Pinto, whose younger brother Jack was killed in the shooting.

The final play has been watched millions of times on Twitter after warming hearts across the country.

Even the Darien team that suffered a heart-breaking loss couldn't help but be moved by Newtown's victory.

Many of the fans and cheerleaders at the game were wearing green, the color of Sandy Hook Elementary School, to honor the 20 children and six adults who were killed in 2012. They were treated to a sight that ensured Dec. 14 will also be remembered in town for a moment much bigger than football.

"It's a sign of hope," fan Tina Welsh said.

"I just think it's incredible that they won on the anniversary and they remembered all the people that died that day, it's just a real honor for our town to now have a happy memory of the day,'' fan Lee-Anne Sequenzia said.