By BRIAN JENNINGS
With the Apple Valley Classic football game right around the corner, Southington’s playoff hopes can very easily be gobbled up by the 6-3 Cheshire Rams. Currently, the 7-2 Blue Knight football team is holding on to the eighth and final spot in the Class LL tournament, fending off 7-2 Fairfield Prep. But what if the Knights lost at Cheshire on Thanksgiving Day? What would that mean for their playoff hopes?
There are four teams battling it out for the final two spots. Southington enters the Thanksgiving Day contest in eighth place, but a win doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re in the playoffs. Still, they basically control their own destiny in their quest for a sixth consecutive playoff berth. A loss would most likely end Southington’s postseason streak.
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The last time the Southington missed out on a chance to play for the Class LL title was 2011 when the Knights finished 17th in Class LL with a 6-4 record.
For Cheshire, a win in the Apple Valley Classic is the only road to the postseason. A loss, and they’re out.
One of the biggest keys to victory will be which team can best establish the run, since the running games are very similar. Cheshire averages 145.2 yards per game compared to 144.4 yards per game by the Knights.
Southington will rely on Ryan Montalvo to lead the charge. Montalvo enters the game with just 395 rushing yards, but that’s because he missed a good chunk of the season after suffering an injury in the season opener. Montalvo paced the offense during a loss at South Windsor with 151 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 19 carries. Tanner LaRosa has also been a strong contributor with 357 yards (39.6 yards per game).
Cheshire relies almost exclusively on Jake Mcalinden, who has paced Cheshire with 679 yards (84.9 avg.), but Elijah Allson has run for 307 yards.
Second, the Knight defense cannot get beat through the air. In their only two losses of the season, Southington has allowed 267 yards passing to East Hartford at home and 225 yards passing to South Windsor on the road. To date, the defense has allowed over 1,000 yards to opposing receivers.
Southington has the edge going in. The Knights have averaged 227.9 yards per game throughout the season, compared to Cheshire’s 130.8 yard average.
On the other hand, Southington’s defense will have to step up down the stretch if they hope to win. Both teams have scored more in the opening half, but Cheshire has been almost as effective in both halves. Southington drops off in the second half. In fact, the Knights have surrendered fourth quarter leads in both losses.
Cheshire also has something to prove. Cheshire dominated the series early, but Southington has been dominant as of late. Southington has won the last five Apple Valley Classics, including a 47-20 win over Cheshire at home last Thanksgiving. The Knights currently lead the Rams in the series, 12-9, dating back to 1996.
Of course, when it comes to Thanksgiving Day football, throw the stats and the records out the window. Are you ready for some football?
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2017 Southington High School roster
2017 Cheshire High School roster