By John Goralski
Kayla Nati turned the corner, and burst into the open field. Then, it was off to the races…
On Monday, Dec. 2, the Lady Knights concluded the annual powder puff two-game series with a 21-12 win over Cheshire. Rains postponed the original schedule. Thanksgiving came and went. Temperatures continue to plummet, but Nati was just getting warmed up.
The Southington girls had a full week to stew about a 12-7 loss to New Britain in the opening game of the annual holiday event, and Cheshire’s defense paid the price. Annalisa Sega opened the game with her second score in as many games, and Nati put the game out of reach with touchdown runs of 85 yards and 56 yards.
“An 85 yarder in Powder Puff? Who ever heard of that?” said Southington coach Charles Kemp. “Oh my God, but it doesn’t surprise me. Nati’s a product of the rugby program that’s been here for the last couple of years. These kids really know how to play the game because of that, and that’s one reason why we do so well with Powder Puff.”
Still, it was the defense that carried the Knights in 2013. On Monday, Nov. 25, New Britain sent wave after wave of runners into the Lady Knight secondary, but they came away with only two scores. In the second game, Cheshire pulled out an unexpected passing game, but Southington defenders weathered the storm.
The Hurricanes were held to less than 200 yards of offense. The Rams were held to just two scores, and Southington improved to 10-10-1 in the annual event with a loss in the first game and a win in the second.
“This is turning into something really special. It was a rock’em, sock’em game, your typical New Britain-Southington game, but this is what it should be,” said New Britain coach Carlos Pina. “We’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Kemp. This game has been able to go on for five years. It’s been a good, clean game. We’re happy to come out with a win.”
The game means different things to the different communities, but at its heart the event has become a launching point for senior class activities. New Britain uses the proceeds to help defray costs for proms and senior activites, and whatever’s left goes to scholarships. Cheshire uses it for school activities, and Southington has re-invests it in the school.
“I just asked them, ‘Did everybody have fun.’ At the end of the day, that’s what this is about. It’s a senior activity,” Kemp said after the loss to New Britain. “We’ve had over $10,000 given back to the school over the last three years since Dr. [Martin] Semmell gave us two games. A good portion of that goes to improving the technology in our building. We give the athletic department a piece of it since we use their fields in the fall, but most of it goes toward trying to help out Southington High School with those bills that are hard to pay.”
To the players, it’s all about the game, and Southington’s seniors left it all on the field.
New Britain opened up a 12-0 lead in the opener when Southington missed a pair of field goal attempts in the first half, but the Knights answered back. Sega ended the shutout bid with a 1-yard run in the waning minutes of the game. Silvana Tellerico converted the extra point kick, and the Knights had one final chance to take the lead on the final play of the game.
Tellerico led the offense with 14 carries for 63 yards. Nati added 56 yards on eight carries, and Sega finished with 39 yards. Rachel Dube powered the defense with seven flags. Elizabeth Ragozzino (6 flags), Emilie Labouliere (5 flags), Samantha Ferla (3), and Antonia Cavallo (2) had multiple stops.
“It was another classic game. It was low-scoring with good defense on both sides,” said Kemp. “It said a lot about us that we came back, but you have to give credit to the coaches that were working with our offense. They did a good job of getting people in, putting a couple of defensive players in there to try to get us down the field, and I think it says a lot.”
In the second game, Southington wasted no time putting points on the board. Sega scored a 1-yard run at the start of the second quarter. Nati ran for one in the third and another in the fourth. Buoyed by their passing game, Cheshire managed two late scores, but Tellerico’s 3-for-3 conversion on extra point plays kept the Rams at bay.
Despite the losing effort, Cheshire managed to rally for an unprecedented 103 yard passing game.
“You have to give all the credit in the world to Cheshire. That was an amazing passing attack,” said Kemp. “I’ve never seen anything like it in Powder Puff football. It was really amazing. They should be commended for playing a great game.”
Nati was just as impressive for Southington, rushing for 170 yards in the game. Tellerico added 39 yards to the Southington attack. Once again, Dube anchored the defense (10 flags). Carissa Mirando and Mikayla Mueller had four flags apiece. Ragozzino and Labouliere scored a trio of stops. Kaycee Belanger and Ferla contributed two flags apiece.
With the victory Southington held onto their .500 record in the series, improving to 10-10-1 overall. New Britain has the best percentage at 4-1, and Cheshire fell to 6-9-1.
Kemp said that everyone was a winner.
“I think that, at the end of the day, I love this because it really does a good job of getting everybody amped up for the Thanksgiving game,” he said. “It really does. People want that game of football. We had that bye week, and everybody is craving football. It’s also good to make sure that our kids are a part of something and get to make new friends. It’s a lot of fun.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.