By John Goralski
What do you do when your offense can’t find the end zone? You let the defense lead the way.
On Friday, Sept. 21, the Blue Knight football team was deadlocked, 7-7, after two quarters in New Britain. Both offenses were mired in penalty flags, miscues, and turnovers. Neither team seemed able to mount a long, sustaining drive.
So at the start of the third quarter, Southington turned to its defense and special teams. What happened next? The defense rallied for two safeties on two New Britain possessions, and the Knights gained the lead for good.
That’s correct. Two safeties in two possessions.
“When we made mistakes, drew penalties, or whatever it was, we didn’t just shut down,” said Southington coach Mike Drury. “We came back and battled through it. You have games like that. We have to learn from the mistakes that were made and grow from it.”
This may be the year of the defense for the Knights with three safeties in the first two games of the season. Zach Maxwell led the charge with 10 tackles against New Britain, but none were as big as his two tackles in the end zone.
On the first one, Maxwell dragged down New Britain quarterback Malique Jones after a Hurricane interception at the one yard line. Less than a minute and a half later, he partnered with Josh Irizarry to drag down Hurricane running back Lamar Bowsky for the second safety in as many possessions.
“I told everyone on the defense I was feeling safety, and the next play it happened,” said Maxwell. “It feels awesome to help out my team like that.”
The safeties sparked a 25-0 rally, but it still took some defensive effort to set up the scores with two Southington touchdowns called back by penalties. Corbin Garry scored on a 52-yard interception return, but it was called back by a penalty. On the next New Britain possession, Garry pick-pocketed Jones at the end of a running play. Southington eventually scored after both turnovers, and the Knights took a 32-7 lead into the final quarter.
“It just takes leaders on the team to pick ourselves up and move on,” said Garry. “We had to make a statement here tonight. We had to get the W, and that’s what we did.”
Stephen Barmore marshaled the offense with 215 passing yards and led the team with 54 yards on the ground. His 19-yard touchdown scramble in the first quarter accounted for Southington’s scoring at the break. He added a 41-yard touchdown pass to Alex Jamele after the two safeties and capped the night with a 10 yard run in the final minute of the third quarter after a three yard plunge by Zach Jamele.
“We were definitely getting frustrated, especially in the first half,” Barmore said. “It wasn’t that they were overpowering us on defense. We were just shooting ourselves in the foot. We were making stupid mistakes. It was a good thing that we were able to clean it up in the second half.”
Anthony Bonenfant led the receivers with seven catches for 90 yards, but it was the defense that set up the victory. Garry finished with a fumble recovery and an interception. Jimmy Doyle recovered another fumble. Tyler Hyde and Anthony Oliva intercepted Hurricane passes. Nick Spitz and Justin Rose collected eight tackles apiece.
“That’s the way that defense has to play. We have to go out there and win,” said Spitz. “That’s exactly what we did. We played physical. We played mean, and we played nasty. We didn’t let anything stop us.”
Southington’s defense allowed 143 yards of offense in the opening half, but limited New Britain to just 70 in the second half with 61 yards coming against Southington’s emptied bench.
“The people who win these sorts of games are the ones that win it up front, and that’s what we did,” said Drury. “It’s frustrating, but we’re going to work on it and get better. There’s only one way to go. Little by little, each day, we’ll get better. We’ll improve on it and tighten things up in practice. Every team has a game like this every year. Hopefully this is the only one, and that’s our goal. We survived. We’re going to look at it and grow from it.”
Next week, Southington will open their home schedule against Newington. The Indians (0-2) are coming off of a 63-28 loss to Glastonbury. With the artificial turf construction, the game has been moved to Saturday, Sept. 29 at Cheshire High School.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” said Drury. “We’ll look at the film, get better, and start prepping for Newington.”
Kick off is scheduled for 2 p.m.
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