By BRIAN JENNINGS
With a walk-off field goal to score an overtime win followed by a 20-point victory in Southington’s longest rivalry, the powder puff football team scored a 2-0 record for just the third time in program history. The Lady Knights edged New Britain on Monday and cruised past Cheshire on Tuesday to launch the holiday week.
It has been 14 seasons with the powder puff football team thus far, but head coach Charles Kemp said that this year might be his last. What a way to be sent off into the sunset. After the two wins, Kemp improved to 12-7-1 during his tenure with the Knights.
“I love it so much, but it’s so much work,” the coach said. “If it wasn’t for my assistant coaches, I probably would have been gone about five years ago. You hit that point where you’re just done with it, but then you end up with a team like this, and suddenly they just put the life back into you.”
After experiencing his first overtime victory and achieving a win with the highest point differential over Cheshire, Kemp said that this was the best powder puff team he has ever coached.
“You talk about having a cupboard full of players,” said Kemp. “The best thing about them though is the fact that they’re such great people. They wanted it to be spread around and didn’t want the glory for themselves. They’re some of the best people I’ve ever met. It’s hard to turn your back on a program that means so much to the kids and community.”
Win vs. New Britain
NOV. 21—After being shut out, 30-0, at New Britain in last year’s matchup, Southington was hungry to avenge the loss. The Knights opened the short season by edging the Golden Hurricanes by a field goal in overtime, 17-14, at home on Monday.
This was the first time in the series that a game was decided in extra time.
Following a scoreless first quarter, Michelle Woodruff put the Knights on the board first by running in the lone score of the first half from 10 yards out with just over four minutes to go before halftime.
The Hurricanes tied the game with a 56-yard rushing touchdown late in the third quarter, and took the lead, 14-7, with a four-yard run for a score midway through the fourth quarter. But the Knights answered.
With 36.3 seconds remaining in regulation, Emma Johnston snuck behind her offensive line and pushed through the Hurricane defense as she stretched the ball past the goal line for a 1-yard dash into the end zone, tying the game at 14-14 and eventually sending the contest into overtime.
The officials, coaches, and captains gathered at midfield and decided to play a Kansas City-style overtime, where both teams would each get one possession from the opposing team’s 10-yard line. If no team scored, the game would be settled in a tie.
“We were vacillating about how we wanted to run the overtime program,” said Kemp. “We had it down that we would run a five-minute quarter and see what happened from there, but the administrators and referees did not want that.”
New Britain won the coin flip and received the ball first, but was stopped on three downs and forced to attempt a 25-yard field goal. However, the kick sailed wide of the uprights. Now it was Southington’s turn.
“Our mindset from the beginning was to just try to drive it in from the middle and maybe score a touchdown,” the coach said. “But we put it in the hands of our special teams, which have done a great job all year. Once they were unsuccessful in first scoring a touchdown and then in their field goal attempt, the thought was field goal.”
Southington ran five plays on their possession and was forced to attempt a field goal on fourth down as well. The outcome of the game rested on Caroline Kemnitz’s foot.
“I was so nervous, but I just thought about what coach Fabian told me,” said Kemnitz. “You just have to forget about everything and just imagine yourself doing it. That’s what I did.”
Kemnitz converted two extra point kicks earlier in the game, but she stepped up when it mattered most. Kemnitz booted a 20-yard kick through the uprights over herd of screaming Hurricane defenders standing in the end zone, lifting the Knights to a three-point victory.
Southington’s sideline emptied as Kemnitz’s teammates charged the field in celebration while the song “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond played over the loudspeakers.
“I didn’t know if it was a coincidence, or if they did that on purpose,” said Kemnitz. “It was really nice to have all of my friends there with me, cheering me on after. I was so happy just to see everyone run on the field.”
As a defenseman for the Lady Knight soccer team, Kemnitz said that her soccer skills played a big role in kicking extra points and field goals for the powder puff team, which is what helped her nail the game-winning field goal.
“Some of the other girls had a hard time with their placement,” said Kemnitz. “But because of soccer, I think that I was not only good at kicking it far, but also knowing where I wanted to put it. Usually it’s straight on, but the field goal was a little to the side, so I just had to turn my body to make sure I had the right angle.”
Southington rushed for 171 yards on 38 carries. New Britain rushed for 195 yards on 28 carries. Woodruff paced the Knights with 54 yards on nine carries. The Knight defense grabbed 32 flags, and the Hurricane defense grabbed 41.
Win at Cheshire
NOV. 22—A 10-0 sweep of Cheshire was satisfying for Southington at home in last year’s game. However, the second-largest victory over Cheshire—since the series began in 1996—was even better, as the Knights defeated the Rams, 34-14, at home the next night for the sixth-straight year.
Following a scoreless first quarter, Cheshire took a 7-0 lead on three-yard touchdown run by Isabel Cuddy late in the second quarter. Moments later, Hannah Jackman delivered a 24-yard strike to Morgan Raymond for a touchdown to cut the deficit to one with two seconds showing on the clock before the end of the first half, as the PAT was missed.
On Cheshire’s first possession of the second half, quarterback Alyssa Stevens took off downfield 41 yards for a score, giving the Rams a 14-6 advantage, after hiking the ball nonchalantly and walking towards the sideline on a trick play. Stevens took off down field immediately once she noticed that Southington figured the play was blown dead. However, Cheshire would not score again in the contest.
On Southington’s next possession, Raymond reeled in a 56-yard touchdown pass from Kelly Graff, bringing the Knights within a point once again. Raymond struck again with just under five minutes to play in the quarter, giving the Knights their first lead of the game, 20-14, on a rushing touchdown from 10 yards out.
After the Rams turned the ball over on downs, Rylee Van Epps extended Southington’s lead to 13 with a 20-yard sprint of her own, a couple of seconds before the end of the quarter. Amanda Delorme capped off the victory by scampering past the pylons from two yards out late in the fourth quarter.
“This win just encapsulates 2017 Southington High School,” said Kemp. “We had 115 kids and only eight practices. It was way more than my staff and I could handle, but those kids came together on their own and decided that they wanted their season to end this way. Cheshire made it interesting, like they always do, but these guys woke up in the second half and ended their season perfect the way they began it. I’m very proud of them for that.”
Southington rushed for 171 yards on 26 carries. Cheshire rushed for 215 yards on 42 carries. Raymond rushed for 44 yards on seven carries and ended up with two catches for 80 yards. Stevens completed just one of 10 passes for 20 yards. The Knight defense grabbed 49 flags, and the Ram defense grabbed 31.
Southington is now 15-11-1 overall in powder puff football games, leading the Cheshire series, 12-6-1, but down 5-3 in the New Britain series.
The powder puff program is actually a senior class fundraiser. Money raised through ticket sales is used the principal’s account to help run the high school and bring new technology into the classrooms.
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI