By John Goralski
On Simsbury’s first possession, they took the lead. Midway through the second quarter, they did it again. On Saturday, Nov. 3, Southington limped into the break with the score knotted, 14-14. Once again, the second half was a different story.
Southington scored in the last minute of the first half, and that was just the spark they needed. It ignited the running game. It charged the passing game, and the defense did the rest. The Blue Knights rallied for 28 unanswered points to keep their undefeated hopes alive.
Goal one. Check. Southington captured their first conference title since 2010 with a 35-14 victory over the Trojans.
“That was the rally cry this week,” Blue Knight coach Mike Drury said after players showered him with a cooler of ice water. “One of our goals was to be conference champs, and it comes against a very tough team. Simsbury is well-coached team, and they battled. We dug in and took care of it.”
Once again, the defense led the way. For the third game in a row, Southington fell behind. For the third game in a row, they held their opponent scoreless after the break. In eight games this season, the Knights have allowed only three scores in the second half, and all of them came once the outcome was clear.
Nick Spitz and Zach Maxwell led the blitz with 11 tackles apiece. Zak Jamele and Travis Daly collected 10 tackles apiece. Simsbury running backs rallied for 234 yards on the ground, but Southington’s defense held them to just two completions for 34 yards and three turnovers. David DiNeno (7 tackles), Anthony Oliva, and Nate Bonenfant intercepted passes, and Simsbury’s longest passing play (28 yards) came on a second effort after the ball was tipped by a Southington defender.
“We’ve got to make sure that we come out right away, so we’re going to address it. We’re going to work on it, but they responded well,” Drury said about his team’s slow start. “They still got a lot of big plays. They run a lot of different sets and similar plays just to outflank you or get you out of your zone. But you know what? Our guys played tough against it.”
For the second game in a row, Southington’s offense overwhelmed their opponent. Stephen Barmore completed 20 of his 28 passes (71.4 percent) and completed touchdowns to Connor John, Anthony Bonenfant, Alex Jamele, and Corbin Garry. Six receivers combined for 326 yards in the air, while Bonenfant (125 yards) and Garry (102 yards) both finished with triple digit yardage.
“The offense was clicking. I definitely think we brought some of the energy from last game over into this game,” said Barmore. “The defense, again, even though they gave up a couple touchdowns, still gave us great field position all game and we were able to operate.”
In the second half Southington picked up the tempo, and that opened up the running game. Tyler Hyde scrambled for 101 yards rushing in a well-balanced attack. Zak Jamele capped the scoring with a one-run plunge in the fourth quarter, and Southington (8-0) moved into first place in the Class LL points standings as one of five undefeated programs in their division.
“I finally got my chance to step in, and thanks to the O-line I got all that I could get on my chances,” said Hyde. “The holes were big. The wide receivers blocked great. The running game opened up the passing game for Stephen, and everything all around. The defense gave us great field position, and all around we did well.”
Southington will try to carry that momentum into a non-conference battle in Manchester this Friday. The Indians (6-2) are coming off a 32-8 victory over New Britain, and Manchester needs the win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“They have a ton of talent. They have a lot of very good, skilled guys. They’re a well-coached team,” said Drury. “It’s going to be a battle up there at their place.”
Kick-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.
“We’re going to keep going, and the road continues on from here,” said Hyde. “Next week’s Manchester. It’s a big game, and we’re going to keep winning.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.