By BRIAN JENNINGS
Jasen Rose took the snap deep in Southington’s zone, turned, and looked for a running back to hand the ball off to. He found himself alone in the backfield. Rose rolled out to the left as the line started to disintegrate. Red jerseys closed in on the Southington quaterback as he scrambled in the end zone.
Conard’s defense quickly snuck up on him, sacking him in the end zone for a safety.
“That was my fault,” said Rose. “It was supposed to go to Vance [Upham], but I turned the wrong way to give it to Alessio [Diana]. My head wasn’t in it.”
Conard (4-2) may have gotten a momentum swing with a safety and a 58-yard run for a touchdown to take a 9-6 lead over the Blue Knights with 2:24 to go in the first quarter, but Rose and the offense never panicked.
They simply took responsibility for their mistakes and managed to answer back with 47 of the next 67 point. The Knights improved to 6-0 with a 53-29 triumph at Conard on Friday, Oct. 23.
“After the safety, everyone stayed calm. That’s the best part about it,” said Rose. “The safety didn’t really mean much…We had to clean it up. We knew that we were still in it, and our defense is dominant. Our defense picked it up and did a hell of a job. So, our offense just had to do its job and obviously it turned out like that in the second half.”
After Rose’s miscommunication in the first quarter, the Knights offense took over. Rose hit Morin for a 56-yard touchdown pass before the end of the first quarter. He returned to hit Morin again on a 31-yard touchdown strike late in the second quarter and even ran one in himself on a 25-yard dash, seconds before halftime.
“It was miscommunication and things that we don’t do,” said Southington coach Mike Drury “You know what, it happens in the game of football. You see it from youth football to the NFL level. You just have to bounce back from that and not let it dictate the rest of the game. We just have to forget about it and move on.”
Conard hung around, making things interesting with a touchdown midway through the second quarter to make the score 20-16, but the Chieftains wouldn’t score another point until the late in the fourth quarter with the backups in.
Chris Minkiewicz also came up big for the Knights defensively, saving a touchdown on a third and long late in the second quarter that broke open for a big run down the field to the goal line. Minkiewicz stripped the Conard ball carrier before he crossed the goal line, making the only fumble recovery for the Knights in the game.
“It’s a big play,” said Drury. “When you have a really good run game, sometimes you have to put your corners and secondary out on an island. That was one of those situations, and he stepped up to make a big play.”
Rose finished the game, completing 18 of 30 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns. Rose also rushed for 46 yards on seven attempts.
Conard’s defense definitely felt the boom from thunder and lightning, as Diana and Upham both rushed over 100 yards in the game. Upham rushed for 168 yards on seven carries and two touchdowns (34-yard score midway through second quarter, 80-yard score midway through the third). Diana rushed for 138 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns (38-yard score midway through third quarter, 26-yard score early in fourth). Diana also caught five passes for 86 yards.
Morin caught eight passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns.
Ryan Montalvo (six assists) and Logan LaRosa (seven assists) anchored the defense, both with 11 total tackles. Matt Gundersen contributed with eight tackles and Mark Meade had two sacks.
The win kept Southington perfect on the season with a 6-0 record, keeping them first atop Division I-West and second in the Class LL standings behind Shelton (6-0). The Knights are set to return home to host New Britain (4-2) on Friday, Oct. 30 after a three-game road stretch.
“It’s New Britain and there’s a great rivalry between the two programs,” said Drury. “We’re back home after this three-game stint, we’re excited to be back home. It’s just going to be a fun game.”
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI (Click to enlarge)