By BRIAN JENNINGS
Simsbury’s quarterback barked out his signals to his offense, and scrambled to get in the play with under two minutes to go in the first quarter, but when the snap came, it sailed right over his head. He made an attempt to reach for the ball, but couldn’t even get a fingertip on it.
The Blue Knights defense flooded the backfield, taking the quarterback right out of the picture. Defensive back John Vecchio saw the ball sputtering on the ground and was the first one at the scene.
He picked the ball up and was off to the end zone untouched. For the second week in a row, Southington’s defense advanced a first quarter fumble for a touchdown.
“I saw the ball and just went after it,” said Vecchio. “Once I picked it up, I was just sprinting as fast as I could to get to the end zone.”
Vecchio’s 25-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown was just one of many big plays made in the Knights 55-13 win over Simsbury (0-3) at home on Friday night, Sept. 25. So far on the season, Vecchio has been a part of a stingy Knights defense that has only allowed 205 rushing yards, 363 passing yards, and 39 points (five touchdowns). Most of those points have come late in games when the outcome was already decided.
“So far, our defense is doing really good,” said Vecchio. “We came out a little flat, but we always pick it up. We work well together. Our focus is great during the week at practice. We’re getting better with the penalties and the discipline is getting better every week.”
Although Vecchio’s touchdown opened the door to a blowout win, the game read a different story minutes earlier in the opening quarter.
Simsbury received the opening kickoff, but was forced to punt after a couple penalties and a three-and-out. The Knights took over on Simsbury’s 48-yard line, resulting in a successful drive that set up Vance Upham for a three-yard touchdown run to put the Knights on the board, 7-0. Simsbury responded on their next drive with a 71-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter, making the score 7-6 after a failed extra point kick.
From there, the Knights took control of the game and didn’t allow Simsbury to score again until midway through the fourth quarter. On the other side of the ball, Jasen Rose went to work, throwing touchdown passes to Anthony Plantamuro (35 yards with 7:34 left) and Austin Morin (25 yards with 2:16 left).
Rose finished the night completing nine of 14 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns. Austin Morin caught six passes for 96 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
The Knights’ also had no trouble moving the ball on the ground, featuring thunder and lightning in their running game. Alessio Diana rushing for 122 yards on six carries, including a 34-yard touchdown run with 4:02 to go in the first quarter. Upham found the end zone for a second time, scoring the only points of the second quarter on a 50-yard touchdown run. Upham finished the night with 110 yards on six carries.
Plantamuro also found the end zone for a second time, scoring the only points of the third quarter on 53-yard touchdown pass. Plantamuro finished the night with 88 yards on two catches.
“Offensively, we have to be able to run and throw the ball,” Southington coach Mike Drury. “We have guys that can do both. That’s been our thing for the past several years now. It’s just the way we have to be.”
Logan LaRosa led the defense with nine tackles, followed by John Meade with seven, and Matt Cianciolo, Upham, Vecchio, and Peirce Martin all with six. Meade also sacked Simsbury’s quarterback three and a half times. The defense held Simsbury to 44 yards on the ground and 162 yards in the air.
“You can’t be one-dimensional, and we don’t want to be one-dimensional,” said Drury. “We’ve had back-to-back weeks where our defense has scored a touchdown. We love that. Those guys work really hard. We have guys flying all around and making plays.”
The Knights are currently first in the Division I West and are gearing up to hit the road for a three-game road stretch, starting with Glastonbury (3-0) on Friday, Oct. 2.
“We’re excited,” said Drury. “We’re going to go against a really good Glastonbury team. It’s always a battle between those guys. We’re really pumped up for a good week of preparation, and I know they are too. It’s been a year and a half since we’ve been up there again. So, we’ll be ready to go.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.