By JOHN GORALSKI, EDITOR
Even the big Hollywood studios know that sequels are rarely better than the original. That’s one reason why they are hyped so much before the premiere. As a business venture, there’s little risk. Audiences will flock to the second one because they loved the first one so much, but are the stories better? Rarely.
Sure, people will cite the exceptions. “The Empire Strikes Back” had a richer story than the original. “The Dark Knight” had a better villain. There have been so many James Bond reboots that there’s bound to be a few hits mixed in with the flops, but the rule still remains.
For every “Terminator 2” there are dozens of films like “Caddyshack 2” or “Weekend at Bernie’s 2”
That’s what made Southington’s first successful run for back-to-back titles so compelling. Was the 2013 title run filled with drama? Yes. Was it thrilling? Absolutely. Did the team take another leap forward this winter?
You be the judge.
It’s no disrespect to last season’s victory or any team that came before this. Any time a program wins a title it’s special, but this last one will surely stand the test of time. Long-time Southington fans have been debating this topic for years. Was the 1949 team the best in history? Or was it 1954? On Saturday, Dec. 13, the argument was finally put to rest.
The 1949 Lewis High School team was the one that set the bar, and its accomplishments were legendary. The small-town squad raced to an 11-0 record. They out-scored opponents, 385-39. They posted seven shutouts and only one decision that came within seven points. The team capped its season with a 61-0 win over Plainville on Thanksgiving Day. Three players went on to play in college for division one programs. One went on to earn all-American honors before leaving Lewis High.
There was no surprise that it was the first high school team inducted into the local hall of fame.
Five years later, the Blue Knights scored another state title. The 8-0 record marked the program’s fourth perfect season. They out-scored teams, 329-57. They out-scored opponents in every quarter but one. Four times, they scored more than 40 points. Once again, they scored more than 60 against Plainville. Three players earned all-state honors, and Southington topped the B-division postseason polls.
It’s no surprise that this team was another early induction into the local hall of fame. For the past 60 years, local fans have been arguing about which team was better. That debate is finally over.
A rookie quarterback took the field this fall and actually out-performed last year’s Connecticut offensive player of the year. Jasen Rose completed 218-of-309 passes (.706) for 3,190 yards and 47 touchdowns with only nine interceptions. In the championship game alone, he threw five touchdown throws in just three quarters and completed 77 percent of his throws.
Ray Thorpe was an exceptional passer in 1954, but if you added his career numbers to the 1949 season it still wouldn’t touch Rose’s two postseason wins.
Alex Jamele didn’t match last year’s touchdown total, but his second scoring catch just before halftime made him the first and only Connecticut receiver to graduate with 50 touchdown receptions. Once again, add up the career totals from 1949 and 54 and it wouldn’t come close.
Forget about the running game. Both of those previous teams were spectacular, but this year’s Knights had two 1,000 yard rushers on top of all that passing. Even last year’s team couldn’t come close to that.
The 1945 team scored more than 40 points in half of their games (5). The 1954 team did it four times. This fall, the Knights averaged 45.5 points per game. Southington scored at least 40 points in every game but one—and that one was a 27-0 win in severe weather conditions.
The Knights didn’t score 60 points in any game this fall, but Connecticut has that 50-point rule looming over the second half. In the state championship game, Southington won by 49. The team was forced to take a knee for extra points in both of their final scores, and the point was driven home at the start of the fourth quarter when a Blue Knight punt was downed at NFA’s one-yard line.
Coach Mike Drury sprinted down the sidelines as his defense took the field. “Go off-sides on purpose,” he yelled, and the five-yard penalty was crucial. A safety would have broken the 50-point rule…with a quarter left to play in the championship game.
No one will contest the offense. After all, both of those early teams were known for their defense, but this season’s blue wall might have been even more formidable. Southington out-scored opponents, 546-115, and most of those points were scored after the varsity team was pulled from the game.
This doesn’t diminish the accomplishments of those earlier squads. A 60-year reign is more than either one of those teams might have hoped for, but the argument’s over.
The 2014 Blue Knight team was the best in Southington’s history. Try and debate it.