By John Goralski
On the second play of the game, a Blue Knight interception gave Glastonbury the ball inside the 50-yard line. On Southington’s second possession, a punt from their own end zone careened out of bounds in the red zone.
With 10 minutes elapsed in Southington’s season opener, the defense had only given up 31 yards on four Glastonbury possessions, but the Tomahawks were in control of the contest with a 10-0 lead. At the end of the first quarter, Southington’s torrid offense had accounted for just one first down as the Knights stumbled into their Class LL title defense.
On Friday, Sept. 12, the Knights opened their season with five turnovers. Special teams botched two punts and fumbled on another. A pair of kick-offs sailed out of bounds for penalties, and three interceptions halted Southington possessions. Glastonbury scored 24 points off turnovers and special teams mistakes.
Yet, somehow, the Knights came away with a 41-38 win.
“It was ugly. We had too many penalties. We’ll go through the numbers and look at it all, but you’re lucky to come out with wins in games like this,” said Blue Knight football coach Mike Drury. “I’ve been involved in games like this where we didn’t come out with the win, so we’re going to tighten down and improve on this.”
How did the Knights come away with the win? Defense and a second half comeback. Glastonbury runners were held to just 1.4 yards per carry. Tomahawk receivers averaged just under 9 yards per catch, but Southington’s secondary held them to just eight completed passes.
The offense and special teams stumbled, but the defense held firm. Glastonbury managed just 129 yards of total offense in the game.
“The defense did a great job because their backs were against the wall with some of the positions that we put them in with our offense and special teams,” said Drury. “I thought the defense did a phenomenal job. How many times were they caught inside the 10 yard line? It was a tough game, but these are the games you are happy to get out of. You have to learn from them.”
Dan Williams and Matt Thomson anchored the blitz with 15 tackles apiece. Zach Spooner collected 10 tackles. Matt Koczera (9), Alex Jamele (7), and Logan LaRosa (6) each played pivotal roles as the Knights shut down the Tomahawk offense.
“It was our physicality. We had to come out and hit them harder than they hit us, and I think we did that,” said senior defenseman Steve Hamel (5 tackles). “I think that the defense was really important because we stopped them and got our offense right back on the field.”
Southington’s offense settled down in the second quarter, sparked by a 78-yard run by Vance Upham to set up Southington’s first score. Upham finished with 143 yards on 14 carries (10.2 average), and Alessio Diana covered another 80 yards on 11 carries. The two rookie running backs carried the load while Southington receivers struggled in the first half.
“It really was all about the blocking, and I give credit to my entire front line. Without them, I wouldn’t have done anything,” said Upham. “In the first quarter we came out a little bit slow, but we picked up the intensity and got together as a unit.”
Southington receivers were sparked by the rushing game. Alex Jamele (7 catches, 93 yards) scored twice in the first half and once down the stretch. Kyle Borawski (90 yards) caught three passes in the third quarter, but each one marked a Southington turning point. His first one gave the Knights their first lead. His second catch gave them their biggest lead of the game, and his third one gave Southington the lead for good after an interception and fumble gave Glastonbury a 31-27 advantage.
“We were a little lucky to come out of here with a win because we made a lot of mistakes. We’ve got to clean it up,” said Drury. “It’s a tough one because it shows that we need to improve a lot of stuff, but a win’s a win. That’s the positive part about this. We’re going to move forward and try to get better every day.”
Now, the Knights will take to the road to face Manchester (0-1) in the first game of a three-week road trip. The Indians are coming off of a 13-6 loss to No. 8 Windsor, so Southington will need to avoid mistakes if they expect to capture their second win.
“We’re going to have to be much better,” said Drury. “We have a hard week of practice ahead of us, and we’ve got a lot of things to tighten up.”
Kick-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Manchester High School.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.
By John Goralski