By BRIAN JENNINGS
It came down to the final seconds of the game, but the Blue Knight football team’s six-game winning streak was snapped on Friday, Oct. 27. Southington fell, 27-20, to East Hartford (6-1) at home, which snapped the program’s 41-game regular season winning streak.
“I’m proud of them and the way they competed,” said Southington coach Mike Drury. “But the game of football is about making plays and capitalizing on opportunities, and they made a couple more than us tonight.”
Even on the final drive, Southington had its chances. The Knights received the ensuing kickoff at their own 30 yard line and methodically worked the ball to the East Hartford 29 with mostly sideline passes, but the drive stalled in the red zone.
With 8.4 seconds to go, a near-miss down the sidelines would have set up the Knights around the 5 yard line. A dropped ball just shy of the goal line on first down left 0.2 seconds showing on the clock. Southington quarterback Will Barmore heaved one final throw to the left corner of the end zone, but the ball was bobbled before falling incomplete.
“We tried to give our guys a shot in the end zone,” said Southington coach Mike Drury. “There’s no great call for those situations.”
The last time Southington lost a regular season game was at Hall on Oct. 19, as the Knights fell, 49-37, to the Warriors. Following the loss, the Knights went on to claim their third CIAC Class LL title with a 49-0 victory over NFA in the championship game.
Drury said that the loss was a great wakeup call for the competition that’s still yet to come for the Knights, such as road games at South Windsor (6-1) and Cheshire (5-2).
“We’re going to evaluate this, see how we can improve it, and just make sure that we’re moving in a positive direction the rest of the season,” said Drury. “That’s all you can do. You can’t dwell on it. You’re upset about it because you care about it, but we just have to make sure that we build off it.”
The game was tied at the break, but Southington took the lead to open the second half with Barmore’s 45-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Ringrose midway through the third quarter, but the Hornets answered.
East Hartford quarterback Raquan Tompkins found Jaquan Allen for a 62-yard bomb on the first play of the fourth quarter. University of Connecticut commit Kevon Jones concluded the four-play drive with a rumble into the end zone from four yards out, bringing the Hornets to within a point after a blocked extra point.
Three possessions later, Shaun Wagner returned a punt 70 yards to the East Hartford nine that resulted in a blast past the pylons by Ryan Montalvo on the first play of the drive, giving the Knights a seven-point lead back after the extra point was blocked. The Hornets quickly responded on their next possession.
On third-and-goal from the Southington six, Tompkins snapped the ball and rolled out to the right. With nothing open downfield, he reversed his field, stiff-armed a defender to the ground, and stumbled into the end zone for the touchdown to tie the contest.
One of Barmore’s passes was deflected by a defender and intercepted by Troy Baxter on Southington’s next drive around midfield. All it took was two plays for Tompkins to find Jayden Gardener on a 41-yard acrobatic reception for the game-winning score.
As the only two players back, Gardener went over the top of a defender and won a jump ball from behind. The defender fell to the turf when Gardner came down with the ball and he broke the plane untouched to put the Hornets up by seven with 56.4 seconds left in regulation.
“It’s just a lot of ebb and flow of the game,” said Drury. “There were ups and downs and things like that. I thought we did a good job special teams-wise. That really sparked us and helped us out, but they just took hold of a little momentum shift there.”
Barmore completed 20 of 32 passes for 275 yards. Montalvo paced the offense on the ground with 73 yards on 10 carries. Lamson caught four passes for a team high of 107 yards.
Ian Hall anchored the defense with 10 tackles, including six assists. Jack Terray contributed with six tackles and forced a fumble. Wagner blocked a kick.
The Knight defense allowed a total of 405 yards of total offense, including 267 yards passing by Tompkins, which was the most Southington has allowed all season. Gardener caught three passes for 126 yards, and Tompkins and Jones combined for 135 yards rushing on 26 attempts.
“We definitely wanted to stop Tompkins and Jones, but they just made a couple big plays on us,” the coach said. “They are great talents and great athletes, and unfortunately, that’s going to happen at times, but I thought our defense did a really good job of holding things for most of the game. They created a lot of punts and battled hard.”
The Knights will be back on the turf this week for senior night when they host Enfield (1-6) in their final home game of the regular season on Friday, Nov. 3. Game time is 7 p.m.
“Enfield is a much-improved team,” said Drury. “They’ve been scoring a lot of points offensively. They’re definitely improved, and we’ll start working on them tomorrow.”
Southington is currently 6-1 and one of five teams with one loss in Class LL.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/11/01/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-nov-3-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.