By BRIAN JENNINGS
As the old saying goes in football: defense wins championships. Could defense win a Class LL state title for Southington this season? Quite possibly.
Southington pitched their first shutout of the season by blanking Manchester, 37-0, at home on Friday, Sept. 22. Furthermore, the Knights’ first-team defense has yet to allow a touchdown this fall. The only score let up was a Glastonbury kickoff return in the season opener.
With the return of 12 senior defensemen, this veteran-led group has only allowed opponents to just 288 yards of total offense through three games, forcing eight turnovers.
“We’ve done a great job with the communication,” said Southington coach Mike Drury. “Coach Rob Thompson and his staff have really just gotten those guys all on the same page. Defense is so much about trusting the other guys next to you, reading your keys, and playing with physicality, and they do that.”
Southington’s defense held the Indians to a net loss of 24 yards with a 46 yard loss on the ground.
“We talked about just tackling with our feet to get to the point of attack and securing it, and I think we did a great job against some serious athletes out there,” the coach said. “We did a good job of executing the game plan of taking away some of their threats.”
Wagner (2 assists), John Miller, and Joe Koczera (4 assists) anchored the defense with four tackles apiece. Koczera also intercepted a pass and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Miller.
On a fairly windy night, Southington’s offense came out slower than usual and managed just one score in the first quarter. A 13-yard pass from Will Barmore to Jamie Lamson gave the Knights a 7-0 advantage midway through the first quarter.
“It was a little breezy, but it wasn’t a major factor,” the coach said. “We just had some opportunities that we could have executed a little better, but the guys know that and expect that. They want to do that.”
A slow start for Southington in the opening onset of the game was only temporary though. Shaun Wagner intercepted Manchester’s quarterback around the Indian 40-yard line on just the third play of the second quarter to set up a 14-yard touchdown pass to Tim O’Shea. Late in the quarter, Tanner LaRosa scored from two yards out to extend Southington’s lead to 21-0 at the half.
Barmore found O’Shea in the end zone again after connecting on a 21-yard pass midway through the third quarter. “Tim’s a matchup nightmare for teams,” said Drury. “He’s six-foot-four and runs really good routs. He has strong hands and is able to highpoint footballs. He just has a good awareness of the field once the ball’s in his hands. He did a great job of sticking his rout, making the play, and getting vertical.”
On Manchester’s next offensive drive, the ball was snapped through the back of the end zone on a fourth-and-26 from its own 14, resulting in a safety to put Southington up, 30-0. Ian Agnew capped off the win with a 20-yard rushing touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Agnew paced the backfield with 87 yards rushing on 15 carries. LaRosa was right behind Agnew with 84 yards on 17 carries.
Barmore completed 20 of 33 passes for 187 yards. O’Shea led all receivers with 82 yards on six catches.
The Knights will be back on the turf this week when they travel to divisional Conard (2-1) on Thursday, Sept. 28. Game time is 7 p.m.
“I know Conard’s going to be well prepared,” said Drury. “Coach (Matthew) Cersosimo and his staff do a great job. Thursday night is just an adjustment, but it will be fun playing a little Thursday night football. We’re excited and ready to get back to work, but there’s really no day off this week.”
Southington (3-0) is one of eight undefeated teams in Class LL.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/09/26/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-sept-29-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.