Defense wins championships; Knights capitalize on turnovers in second half comeback

By John Goralski

Sports Writer

Zak Jamele’s eyes popped open as the football careened off his leg with under three minutes remaining. It bounced into his chest. He hugged it like a precious infant and sprinted into the open field…

All Glastonbury needed to do on Saturday, Oct. 20 was to run up the middle and kick a chip shot for the victory. Instead, they dropped back to pass. David DiNeno zeroed in on the quarterback to force him to throw it away, and the ball bounced off Jamele’s leg and into his hands.

Five plays later, Jarrid Grimmett skipped into the end zone for the winning score.

“The MVP of the game is Zak Janele. There’s no doubt in my mind,” said Blue Knight quarterback Stephen Barmore. “That interception was the ultimate turning point in the game. It was a complete momentum shift, and he obviously set us up with great field position.”

The game was a featured rivalry between a pair of unbeaten teams, and both teams had chances to win. Glastonbury dominated the first half. Southington answered in the second. But it was three interceptions in the second half that helped the Knights storm back from a halftime deficit. It was Jamele’s catch that set up the final score.

“To win these big games, it comes down to who wins the turnover battle, field position battle, and penalties,” said Blue Knight football coach Mike Drury. “That’s who wins these big games because both teams were fired up, and both teams came out to play football.”

Southington struck first with a quick score on their first possession. Stephen Barmore connected with Corbin Garry for a 52-yard pass that came within 12 yards of a score. Two plays later Barmore raced 10 yards into the end zone. Nobody could have predicted that Southington wouldn’t score again until the waning minutes of the third quarter.

Glastonbury evened the score on the next possession with a six-minute drive that spanned 80 yards. They took the lead with an 80-yard passing play and took a 21-7 lead into the half with a 77-yard drive in the last two minutes of the half.

“We came in at halftime, and we had just a lot of people hanging our heads,” said Barmore. “We knew we were doing a good job defensively. There were just a few mistakes, a few miscommunications, and a few missed assignments. That’s what happens. On defense, if you make one slip-up a big play happens. We knew that we couldn’t allow any of them in the second half, and we didn’t.”

Glastonbury wouldn’t score again. Justin Rose led the blitz with nine tackles. Nick Spitz, Corbin Garry, Zach Maxwell, Tyler Hyde, and Dave DiNeno collected six tackles apiece. The Tomahawks managed just one first down in the second half, and Southington began to chip away at the lead.

“It’s about who’s got the momentum and when it’s going to swing,” said Drury. “Two years ago, we were down 14-0 but we battled back to win. Last year, we were up and they battled back to win. Who’s going to battle back? It’s about who’s going to show up in that second half because there are two halves in football.”

Midway through the third quarter, Garry sparked the offense with an interception at Glastonbury’s 20 yard line. He tipped it twice, came down with the ball, and scrambled to the 11-yard line. Four plays later, Barmore plunged into the end zone for his second score of the game.

“That was a great play, but he’s a very instinctive player,” Drury said about Garry’s interception. “He sees the ball. He sees things going on, and he’s able to read the quarterback’s eyes. He made a tremendous play, and that was huge for us.”

At the start of the fourth quarter, Barmore scrambled 14 yards for his third touchdown of the game, but the Tomahawks pinned the Knights deep in their own zone and recovered a fumble inside the 10-yard line that threatened to tip the scales.

That’s when Jamele caught his unlikely interception to set up the go ahead score.

“This shows a huge resiliency to make big plays. We missed some big plays in the first half and missed some opportunities to score or stop them,” said Drury. “The bottom line is that if you want to be talked about in the state for the type of team you are, you’ve got to play games like this. And you’ve got to win games like this when you’re down.”

Now, the Knights (6-0) will try to carry that momentum into next week’s game against Hall. Last year, the Warriors ended Southington’s play-off hopes with a 22-6 victory in October’s winter storm. Hall (3-3) is coming off a 21-14 loss to Simsbury, and the Warriors will look to play the spoiler again. Drury said that his team will be ready.

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