By John Goralski
Stephen Barmore slipped the ball into Tyler Hyde’s gut with the skill of a con man, and the Blue Knight quarterback drew one Glastonbury defender with a pantomimed pass play. Two linemen wedged through the Tomahawk front line and another crashed into a blitzing linebacker to make a hole for their senior co-captain.
Hyde seemed to glide through the melee and into the open field. Then…it was off to the races.
On Friday, Sept. 13, Southington’s small lead vanished when Glastonbury broke a long touchdown with less than six minutes to go in the game. Not even a minute had passed, and Hyde was returning the favor.
Southington had nine months to dwell on last season’s loss to the Tomahawks in the opening round of the Class L tournament. With a 57-yard run in the game’s final minutes, the Knights were able to return the favor.
“The kids really circled this one during the off-season,” said Blue Knight coach Mike Drury. “I know that it was a sort of sour taste for them, but this is a battle every year in and year out. It’s two teams that both work incredibly hard in the off-season. We know that there’s got to be a winner and a loser, but these are always going to be tight ones. We were fortunate that we made a couple of extra plays and came out on top.”
Once again, it was a see saw battle decided by a late score. Once again, it was anybody’s game until the final minutes.
“We’re always confident going into our games when we prepare the right way,” said Drury. “They do it in the off-season. They had a tremendous preseason and a tremendous week in practice. This is the result of that.”
Many of Southington’s preseason questions were answered in the week one battle, and Drury seemed relieved that his defense was able to contain Glastonbury’s torrid attack. With much of their defense lost to graduation, Southington held their own in a game that was tied, 3-3, at the half.
“We had a lot of guys kind of filling shoes, but we really pride ourselves on our defense,” said the coach. “We like to say that we don’t rebuild. We’re trying to reload for the next year. The guys stepped up, filled those roles, and played a great game. They tackled great, and they played with intensity the whole game.”
Alex Jamele led the way with 12 tackles in the middle. Zach Maxwell scored 12 tackles, including three sacks of Glastonbury quarterback Jalen Ollie. Ollie managed to complete 17 passes for 215 yards, including a 70-yard pass in the fourth quarter to give the Tomahawks their only lead of the game, but Southington’s defense held four Glastonbury runners to just 27 yards on the ground.
Maxwell said that the defense embraced the challenge. “This feels really good,” he said. “Losing to them at home last year was a bummer, but I just wanted to start my senior season off right by it, taking it to this team in their house.”
The first turning point of the contest came on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. Glastonbury took the field without their quarterback in a well-designed trick play, but Southington shifted into their wildcat defense and swarmed a bad snap to score two points with a safety.
“We’re always pleased with a win at the end of the day, but there are definitely a lot of things that we can improve on and we’ll definitely improve on them this coming week,” said Barmore, one of a handful of Knights to play both ways for the Southington squad, “ We gutted it out, and we have to be pleased with the victory.”
Offensively, the Knights did enough to win, but Southington struggled at times to finish long drives. A 60-yard drive to open the game stalled just outside Glastonbury’s red zone. The next one stalled outside the 10, but Southington took the lead with Kyle Smick’s 35 yard field goal.
Southington was forced to punt in three of their next four possessions. Smick missed one field goal attempt, made another (32 yards), and with the safety the Knights eked an 8-3 lead before Glastonbury took the lead with a 70-yard play.
Still, it was the offense that Southington turned to for the win.
“The offensive line got it done today,” said Hyde. “They were the offensive MVP, just like on Thanksgiving [last year]. They did a great job blocking against the linemen and at the secondary level. So did the receivers. They all did a wonderful job.”
Hyde regained the lead, scrambling 57 yards for a score that quieted the Glastonbury fans. Then, the defense did the rest. Glastonbury turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, and Jamele recovered a fumble in the final minute that ended the Tomahawk’s chance for a comeback.
“Each week is tough, week in and week out, but we knew that this one was going to be one of our toughest right off the bat,” said Drury. “We knew that we had to come into this game in great condition and physical shape, and we did. Getting that W was huge for getting our season going.”
Now, the Knights will try to carry the momentum into their home opener this Friday against Manchester. The Indians are looking to avenge last season’s loss on the final play of the game, so the Knights will have no time to celebrate the Glastonbury victory.
“We know that it’s not going to be a team that we just have to go out, have a good game, and beat. We have to practice the right way and prepare the right way. We need to get out and show up on Friday night,” said Drury. “We can’t look ahead. We can’t take a single opponent lightly. If we do that, it will bite us.”
Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the Knights are urging fans to dress in blue for the homecoming contest.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.