By John Goralski
If anybody thought that South Windsor was going to pose a challenge on Friday, Nov. 15, the Blue Knight football team erased all doubts in the opening minutes.
Southington took the field for just 12 plays in the opening half, and it resulted in six scores. The clock began running between plays. Fans began calculating the implications of the 50-point rule, and the Knights cruised into halftime with a 42-0 lead.
The second half was more of a victory lap than a varsity contest, but it allowed Coach Mike Drury to use an early timeout to allow his senior defender to walk off the field to a standing ovation. The lopsided, late-season contest served as a perfect backdrop for Southington’s senior night festivities.
“It was awesome. Coach Drury did a great job setting that up,” said senior co-captain Stephen Barmore. “In basketball you can take people out of a game and get an ovation, but in football you don’t see that a lot. It was really cool that he was able to do that for us.”
On the other hand, it showed a growing concern among the coaches as Southington tries to prepare for a postseason run. For the second week in a row, Blue Knight starters played limited roles in the second half. With one week remaining, a four-win team is the only thing that stands between the Knights and the postseason.
Southington hasn’t been challenged since a loss to Hall in mid-October. The only other time was a tight victory on opening day. Drury said that the Knights are trying to make the most out of a difficult situation, and he was pleased with his team’s focus during the 45-0 win.
“We haven’t had an opportunity to be in that situation in the last few games, but I tell the guys that every game will be our hardest game from here on out,” said the coach. “We want to get out there and practice to be able to play the best we can on Friday night or Saturday morning or whatever it is, and that’s what we did. Offense, defense, and special teams were flying around out there.”
On Southington’s first drive, Tyler Hyde capped a four play, 57-yard drive with a four yard plunge into the end zone. On the second drive, Barmore completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Alex Jamele. Jamele scored a 30 yard pass on the second play of the third drive. Zach Maxwell covered 29 yards on two runs at the end of the first quarter, and Southington led, 28-0.
“We wanted to get all the seniors touches,” said Barmore. “We wanted to get everybody in the game and everybody active. We wanted to give everyone a chance to walk off the field and get recognized by the crowd for being a senior and putting the work in to be dedicated to this program.”
Hyde scored again at the start of the second quarter. Jamele caught his third touchdown pass before halftime to bring his season total (22) within three scores of the single season state record. Kyle Smick converted all six extra points in the first half and capped the scoring in the third quarter with a 37-yard field goal kick.
Barmore completed 10 of 12 passes for 211 yards. Jamele led the receivers with four catches for 125 yards. Hyde (74 yards) and Maxwell (54 yard) led the ground assault.
“Our offense is looking to play at a high tempo and a high speed,” said Drury. “Give the ball and give the best chances for our playmakers. We were able to run the ball and throw the ball. Steve did a great job, and the guys did a great job getting open.”
Defensively, the Knights were just as dominant as they held South Windsor to just 87 yards of offense. Zak Jamele led the blitz with seven tackles. Steven Hamel contributed six tackles, and Zach Spooner recovered a fumble. Senior defender Mike Lange deflected four passes.
Lange said that he likes the challenge of playing teams like Glastonbury or Manchester, but said that he enjoyed playing with his senior defensive unit for a final time on Southington’s turf field.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s a brotherhood, and you have all our brothers right next to you,” he said. “Everybody’s playing for you. Nobody’s playing for themselves. Nobody cares about their stats or anything. Everybody’s playing for each other.”
And everybody’s winning. Southington improved to 8-1 with one game remaining. The Knights currently trail Hall (8-1) and Glastonbury (9-1) for the final spot in the upcoming Class LL tournament, but a win over Cheshire (4-6) on Thanksgiving Day would secure a postseason berth.
The Knights aren’t about to celebrate yet. Last time that Cheshire entered the game with a losing record was in 2007 when a Rams upset spoiled Southington’s bid for an undefeated season and home field advantage.
“I’m going to just try to treat it like any other game,” said Barmore. “We’re going to prepare for it like any other game like we have all year. It would certainly be nice to get a victory against Cheshire on Thanksgiving as my last senior regular season game, and that’s exactly what we intend to do. We’re going to stay the course and carry this momentum into playoffs.”