By John Goralski
Kyle Borawski drew his defender with a small stutter-step at the sidelines, and rolled out to the open field. Just five minutes had elapsed in the second quarter, and Borawski danced 85 yards down the sidelines to give the Blue Knights the lead for good.
Manchester came out swinging on Friday, Sept. 19, but Southington answered back. The Indians were enjoying a 12-7 lead when Borawski stiff-armed one final defender and tiptoed into the end zone, but the Knights exploded for 49 of the next 52 points to put the game out of reach.
Southington’s defense blanked the Indians in the second half, and the Knights cruised to a 56-15 win.
“We knew that we had to step up after last week because it was ugly,” said Blue Knight quarterback Jasen Rose. “Everyone stepped up. The O-line stepped up. The receivers stepped up. The running backs stepped up. It was just great.”
Rose connected with Alex Jamele for his first of four touchdown passes to give the Knights a 7-0 lead, but Manchester answered back on the following possession with a 60-yard scoring drive. When the Indians returned a punt 75 yards for their second score, it gave Manchester their only lead of the game.
That’s when Southington players flipped the switch.
“They’re a well-coached team, and they have a ton of athletes all over the field. They can run, so we just had to play our game and play our tempo to try to wear teams like that down,” said Blue Knight coach Mike Drury. “We made some adjustments at the half, and we just did the job that we know we can do.”
The defense helped kick-start the surge. Matt Thomson (7 tackles) caught two interceptions to set up touchdown drives. Jamele returned an interception for a score midway through the third quarter. Manchester managed just four completions in the game, but Southington’s secondary held the Indian receivers to just one catch in the second half.
“We have team goals every week, and we were striving for five takeaways,” said Thomson. “We only had three, so we’re going to have to come back next week and get those other two.”
The Knights won the line of scrimmage with 18 players combining for 53 tackles, three interceptions, and a blocked kick. Matt Koczera finished with eight tackles. Dan Williams (6 tackles), Jake Thayer (5), and Zack Spooner (5) contributed to the blitz, and Southington held Manchester to just 184 yards of total offense.
“We made some adjustments at halftime to have more of a secondary front,” said Thomson. “Our D-line was doing a great job against the run, so it was more about being aware of where the ball was. A lot of time it was long distance situations.”
Offensively, the Knights proved just as deep with four different ball carriers and seven different receivers. Rose marshaled the attack, completing 21 of 32 passes (65.7 percent) for 301 yards. Luke Krochko came off the bench in the second half and completed all three passing attempts for another 23 yards.
“Jay came out and had a great night,” said Drury. “The offensive line did a great job, and so did the running backs and receivers. It was an all-around great effort.”
Southington running backs scrambled for 193 yards and three touchdowns. Alessio Diana led the way with 23 carries for 102 yards and a score. Upham (10 carries, 76 yards) ran for two touchdowns. Borawski led receivers with 101 yards and a score. Jamele (89 yards) scored twice. Matt Maxwell (44 yards) scored in the second half, and Austin Morin broke out with seven catches for 66 yards.
Drury said that the team still needs to work on avoiding penalties and communicating better on special teams, but the Knights were nearly perfect in the second half.
“We have some new guys in some new positions and situations,” said the coach. “They did a good job in the second half, but we have a lot of things to clean up.”
With the victory, Southington improved to 2-0. The road trip will continue this Friday with the conference opener at Simsbury. The Trojans (2-0) are coming off a 40-8 victory at East Hartford.
“They run that triple-option, and they play tough defense,” said Drury. “They’re really disciplined, so we just have to go out and play our style of game. We have to win field position, win that turnover battle, and take care of the ball. “
Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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By John Goralski