By BRIAN JENNINGS
In a seesaw series that has teetered back and forth for the past six years, the Lady Knight powder puff football team had never beaten New Britain twice in a row…until this year.
The Golden Hurricanes did it. New Britain won their first three games against the Knights when the series began in 2009, but with a 20-0 shutout on Wednesday, Nov. 22, Southington earned back-to-back titles.
The Lady Knight shutout was just the fourth since powder puff began in 1996 and just the second shutout in the New Britain-Southington rivalry. The win also marked the first time the Knights defeated the Hurricanes at Willow Brook Park.
“That’s massive,” said Southington coach Charles Kemp. “It’s wonderful to be able to win back-to-back against them and win here. I’m really happy for the kids that they were able to have a great experience and walk away with a victory.”
The win was even more important since it was the only game this year. Cheshire dropped out of the series for the first time since Southington started playing powder puff football in 1996. From 2013 to 2016, Southington enjoyed two games in November.
“I told the players that there’s no Cheshire game to fall back on, and we had to focus in on New Britain,” said Kemp. “Maybe because we didn’t have that in the back of our minds, it allowed us to dial in and get it done.”
In the first drive of the second quarter, Southington broke the scoreless tie. A false start penalty backed the Knights up to midfield, but Abby Connolly answered on the next play, scampering 50 yards for a touchdown.
“That was a lot of adrenaline,” said Connolly. It’s hard to tell where the defense is going to come out from, but once I saw only one girl in front of me, I was like, ‘I got this.’”
Connolly’s score opened the flood gates. On the next possession, Janette Wadolowski returned a punt 45 yards to New Britain’s 10-yard line. Jessie Pesce ran the next play to the three-yard line, and Nikki Carter scored on a three-yard dash to give Southington a 13-0 halftime lead.
“Since I was so close to the end zone, all of my offensive line was able to hold the defense back and make the gap for me to go through,” said Carter. “You see the end zone, and you just run for it. You don’t really realize how close it is. You just go for it.”
The scoring continued after the break. On the first drive, runs by Connolly and Pesce pushed the Knights into enemy territory and a 31-yard scramble by Tayler Riddick advanced the Knights to New Britain’s 15-yard line. That set up Carter’s second touchdown of the game.
“I wasn’t expecting to score two touchdowns tonight,” she said. “But once you get adrenaline, you keep going and forget about everything else that’s going on.”
Connolly and Carter were two of 10 soccer players that came out for this year’s powder puff football team, which Kemp credits to Southington’s speed and ability to run the ball.
“You hide her (Carter) behind a big line,” said Kemp. “If you get that misdirection handoff done, then there she goes. If you can just give them a little bit of time once they get around that edge, they’re on their way.”
Connolly paced the offense on the ground with 60 yards on three carries.
“I get a lot of my speed from just playing soccer and track,” said Connolly. “It’s a lot of speed and footwork that really helps you out.”
Riddick was not far behind, contributing with 50 yards rushing on four carries. Erin Palinkos made both of the extra points she attempted in the contest. Fajr “Dawn” Muhaymin anchored the Knight defense with over five flags pulled.
“I think I did very well,” said Muhaymin. “When I’m playing, I’m playing hard. I just played my heart out for my coaches. It feels good being part of this team, especially this year because I just moved here.”
Southington finished with 168 yards rushing on 23 carries and did not complete a pass on a pair of attempts, pulling 29 flags on defense. New Britain rushed for 76 yards on 28 carries and completed two passes on four attempts for minus-five yards, pulling 21 flags on defense. Southington’s defense forced the Hurricanes to punt on their first three possessions and turn the ball over on a fumbled snap and fake punt on their final two possessions.
“All the credit for anything that happens on this field goes to Robert Vincent, Ryan O’Connell, and Dave Fabian,” said Kemp. “They’re the ones that work defense, offense, and special teams. Rob’s been doing this with me since 2008, and he gets it. We were also gifted with a lot of players this year.”
The Hurricanes still lead the Knights by a game, 5-4, in the series. Southington’s all-time powder puff football record is 16-11-1.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/11/28/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-dec-1-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI