By BRIAN JENNINGS
New Britain (4-3) had possession of the ball on Southington’s 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter. The quarterback took the snap and handed the ball off to his running back, slashing right up the gut. Keanu Cummings stood back for a moment and waited patiently for the play to develop and then flew into the crowd.
That’s when he was hit by the Southington defense and the ball flung loose.
Chris Minkiewicz saw the fumble fluttering on the ground and quickly reacted. He dove on the loose ball for the recovery in the end zone and secured the goal line stand.
“Staying focused in practice the whole week just helped us out here today,” said Minkiewicz. “We’re just happy we got the shutout. We’re feeling good.”
The Golden Hurricanes may have been knocking on the door late in the fourth quarter, but the Blue Knights defense did not allow them to come in at any point of the game, achieving their first shutout of the season with a 35-0 thrashing over New Britain at home on Friday, Oct. 30.
Chris Minkiewicz finished the game with six total tackles, two assists, and the team’s only fumble recovery. forced the fumble.
Ryan Montalvo finished the game with 11 total tackles, seven assists, and the defense’s only interception of the night.
“Our coaches preached turnovers today,” said Montalvo. “That was a real big thing they wanted us to do. I think that’s what separated us. We’re a better defense and we take the ball back. We work together very well. We have really good chemistry and communication with each other. We’re all brothers.”
Logan LaRosa contributed with 10 total tackles, eight assists, and a sack.
“Coach (Rob) Thomson was a big part of it. He always knows exactly what to do every practice every week, “said LaRosa. “He always manipulates the defense just to work the offense in that sort of way. Today, the defense really came together and everyone did their job. We held them to a goal line stop and that was big.”
The Knights held New Britain to 234 yards of total offense (84 yards rushing, 150 yards passing), and scored 28 of their 35 points in the first half.
“Defensively, our guys battled. We talk about running to the football and not giving up the big play,” said Southington coach Mike Drury. “If they get something on us, we have to rally and tackle in the open field, and we did that really well. We were an opportunistic defense, causing turnovers and making the stop on a big fourth down and a goal line stand.”
Vance Upham recorded 12 total tackles, eight assists, and caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Jasen Rose in the second quarter. Rose completed nine of 16 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns, including a 95-yard strike to Austin Morin with seconds left in the game. Rose also ran one in himself from four yards out in the first quarter.
Morin caught three passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Alessio Diana rushed for 87 yards on eight carries, including a seven-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Jake Testa caught two passes for 51 yards.
Southington improved to 7-0 with the win over the Hurricanes, locking up the Div I-West title in the process.
“We told our guys that this is championship football, so we have to play championship-caliber football,” said Drury. “We came out here and we did our jobs. We’re just moving forward and that’s one of our major goals each year. We tell them that it’s a huge goal for us. They achieved that, now it’s onto our next goal.”
The Knights are currently second in Class LL behind Shelton (7-0) and will look to stay perfect when they host East Hartford (5-2, 10th in Class LL) on Friday, Nov. 6 in their last regular season home game. Southington defeated the East Hartford, 49-8, on the road last year.
“They’re [East Hartford] a much-improved team, I’d say, from last year,” the coach said. “They have some really solid athletes out there. It’s our last guaranteed home game here. We have to make sure that we come out flying. It’s senior night. I know that the kids and parents are going to be excited. We just have to execute.”