By John Goralski
Two blitzing linebackers tipped the football into the air, and Dan Williams slid underneath it for Southington’s second interception in the game. On Friday, Nov. 24, the Blue Knight football team was mired in penalties on both sides of the ball, but in between the flags, Southington players were putting on a show.
Williams was the star of the first act. Interceptions are rare enough in high school football, but when a lineman comes down with the ball, it’s unforgettable.
“It was a great feeling, but it wouldn’t have happened without [Stephen] Hamel or [Matt] Thomson,” said Williams. “Hamel tipped it up. Thomson pressured the quarterback, and that was the reason that I was able to get it.”
The Knights wasted no time securing the victory. Alex Jamele caught his ninth touchdown of the season on the third play of the game. Kyle Borawski matched Jamele’s season total with scores in the first quarter and the third.
The Knights sped out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter and a 27-0 lead at the half. But with two touchdowns called back by penalty and two Conard drives extended by Southington mistakes, even the players’ reactions were tempered after the game.
“There were a lot of flags and a lot of things that we have to clean up this week,” said Rose. The quarterback went 20-for-25 passing (80 percent) for 353 yards and five scores, but he wasn’t smiling when he faced reporters after the game. “We still got the win, but we don’t want to win like that. We want to clean it up and play good football.”
The trend started on opening day when penalties and special team mistakes turned a lopsided rout over Glastonbury into a tightly contested game. Penalties and mistakes continued to plague the Knights over the next five contests even as the margins of victories increased.
Southington still won the battle of turnovers with four interceptions and a fumble recovery against Conard, but penalties kept the game close until midway through the third quarter.
“It’s something that we really need to take care of, and we’re going to,” said Drury. “The kids understand the importance of it. You can’t have those things in games. That doesn’t lose yardage. It loses games, and the kids understand that. We’re just going to put a little more stress on some things and get it right.”
On the other hand, the Knights seemed to rally after every flag. Matt Maxwell caught four passes for 166 yards and two scores. Jamele (9 catches, 74 yards) and Borawski (5 catches, 82 yards) picked apart the Chieftains secondary, and for the sixth straight game Southington receivers accounted for more yardage than the opposing offense.
“Everything was just clicking for the offense—besides the flags,” said Rose. “Everything was working. The offensive line was doing their job. The receivers were catching every ball, and not every throw was perfect. The receivers just happened to catch the ball, and that’s what makes me look like good.”
Defensively, the Knights were just as good, as Southington held Conard to 215 yards of total offense. Matt Koczera (14 tackles), Hamel (10 tackles), Williams (8 tackles), and Ryan Montalvo (6 tackles) combined for five sacks. Williams led the turnover battle with a fumble recovery and an interception. Peter Majchrzak, Brandon Slade, and Maxwell earned interceptions as the Knights rallied for a 41-6 victory.
“The whole defense played well today. We had some mental errors and gave them some yards, but we picked it up in the second half,” said Williams. “We had a lot of pressure and did a lot of blitzing tonight. That takes a lot of pressure off any one guy when you have so many guys pressuring the football.”
With the win, Southington clinched the conference title with a perfect 4-0 record. Now, the Knights will turn their focus toward the postseason as they look to iron out their penalty issues against four non-conference opponents.
The final stretch will start on Saturday, Nov. 1 with a 1 p.m. kick-off against Newington. The Indians are coming off 20-18 win over East Hartford on Friday. This will be Southington’s final home game until Thanksgiving Day.
“They’re a team that spreads you out, and they have a quarterback that’s a three-year starter,” said Drury. “They have some very good weapons on the perimeter, so we have to make sure that we take care of business this week in practice to get to where we need to be. I’m looking for another good game.”
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By John Goralski