By BRIAN JENNINGS
Hall’s offense struggled to move the ball down the field, but it was about to get even worse. On a fourth-and-18, the Warriors had the ball on their own 15-yard line as time expired in the half. The punter didn’t stand a chance.
When the ball was hiked, Koczera was already in the backfield. He threw his body out in front of the punter like a skydiver jumping out of a plane and blocked the kick. The ball hobbled past the goal line, but before it reached the back of the end zone, Koczera swooped in and dove on the loose change, extending Southington’s lead to 31-0 by halftime.
The Blue Knight football team blocked two more punts in the second half, all credit to Ian Hall and Ryan Gavronski, and remained undefeated after pitching their second shutout of the season with a 45-0 triumph at Hall on Friday, Oct. 6. The defense held the Warriors without a single first down in the game and minus-9 yards of total offense.
“The defense was lights out,” said Southington coach Mike Drury. “It created a new line of scrimmage in the backfield. We were flying around out there, playing physical, and did a lot of great things.”
A 51-yard pass from Will Barmore to Tim O’Shea and a 21-yard field goal by Evan Johanns gave the Knights a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Barmore’s touchdown pass to O’Shea came on Southington’s first offensive play of the game.
A 42-yard punt return by Shaun Wagner and three-yard run by Tanner LaRosa added a couple more scores to the offensive onslaught in the second quarter. Wagner’s punt return for a touchdown came on a questionable call when it appeared that he had signaled for a fair catch and then took off running with the ball down the field after everyone had stopped play.
“I have to look at it on film because I didn’t get a great look at it,” said Drury. “I just heard everyone going nuts about it, but that stuff happens in a game.”
The Knights capped off the win with scores from James Ringrose (57-yard pass from Barmore) and Dillon Kohl (4-yard run) in the second half, which were both the first varsity touchdowns for the pair.
“We’re kind of by committee at the running back position right now,” the coach said. “That’s where we’re at, and those are the things that we have to do. All those guys are ready to go and expected to perform.”
Hall anchored the defense with 13 tackles, including nine assists, and two sacks. Koczera finished with 10 tackles, including five assists, and a sack. Other than scoring a touchdown on special teams, Wagner also picked off a pass.
LaRosa paced the backfield with 33 yards on 10 carries. Barmore completed 12 of 22 passes for 257 yards, throwing one interception. O’Shea led all receivers with three catches for 65 yards.
Jack Herms was out of the game with an injury, but is expected to return this week. Jake Monson and Will Downes also missed the game with injuries, but are expected to return in several weeks.
The Knights will be off this week with a bye, and Drury said that the team has to take a business-like approach to the additional time off.
“We’re going to be working and training hard,” said Drury. “We’re going to clean up technique and all the things that maybe you bypass sometimes, unfortunately, because of how much time you have during the week. We’ll go back to the basics on a lot of things and get our bodies right.”
The Knights will return to the turf the following week on Friday, Oct. 20 when they host New Britain (2-3) in their last divisional game of the season on First Responders Appreciation Night. Game time is 7 p.m.
“New Britain’s got a ton of athletes,” the coach said. “They have guys that can run all over the field. They’re going to be ready. They always are, and it’s always a battle. We just have to make sure that we take care of what we can take care of and prepare real hard for them.”
A win would clinch the CCC Division I West title for the fourth-straight year. Southington is currently 5-0 and one of six undefeated teams in Class LL.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/10/10/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-oct-13-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.