The Newtown, Conn. high school football team knows that nothing can make up for the 26 people who were massacred last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but a year later they are trying to give people in town something to cheer for.
The Newtown High School Nighthawks have gone 11-0 so far this season and on Tuesday have a chance to make that into a perfect season in an afternoon matchup against Masuk High School from neighboring Monroe.
Players and coaches have dedicated the season to the victims of the December 14, 2012 attack on that left 20 young children and six adults dead in one of the worst school massacres in American history.
The players will wear a logo on their helmets with the number 26 to commemorate the people who died when 20-year-old Adam Lanza rampaged through the school. The logo also includes green, which is the official color of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"Our players are hungry to win the championship to give everyone in town a great Christmas present and something to feel happy about a year after such a horrible tragedy," said Head Coach Steve George.
A win Tuesday would give the team a leg up in its quest for a state championship by securing top seed in the playoff tournament that starts next week.
Quarterback Andrew Tarantino said winning a championship would be particularly poignant this year.
"Obviously, what our team and community went through the past year was really tough, but we just want to put a smile on everyone's face by bringing home a state championship," said the 17-year-old senior who has broken all the school's quarterback records.
If Newtown does make it to the championship game, it is likely to be played on December 13 or 14th, which would coincide with the one-year anniversary of the shootings, George said.
Connecticut officials on Monday released a report on the investigation into the attack, which contained some new details of the isolated existence of Lanza, whose attack ended only when he turned his gun on himself.