By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington football scored a touchdown off a Jacob Drena pass to Carter Uhlman on its first offensive drive of a Sept. 21 game against Manchester at Manchester High School. Things got even better for the Blue Knights when an interception on the first Indian possession was returned for a touchdown.
“We started off great, we punched one in quick offensively,” Southington coach Mike Drury said. “Then we got a pick-six. Johnny Carreiro, a junior for us, made a great play jumping the ball and returned it for a touchdown, so we’re up real quick, 14-0.”
Southington added another touchdown on a pass from Drena to Tanner LaRosa to lead 21-0, but an interception and long Manchester touchdown pass near the end of the first half changed the momentum. The margin closed to 21-13 in the third quarter, and the Blue Knights had to sweat a bit before pulling away for a 31-13 victory.
“We go up 21-0, and then we just had some missed assignments, mental errors,” Drury said.
Another problem was turnovers. Southington had four of those…two interceptions and two lost fumbles.
“We put the ball on the ground a little too much. We lost two fumbles, but we put the ball on the ground six or seven times,” Drury said. “That’s really uncharacteristic of us and our guys, so that’s something that’s going to be a priority for us in terms of our focus because you can’t win games in those situations.”
Southington had its defense going for the most part, however, and Manchester couldn’t take advantage of the extra possessions. Angelo Plantamuro led the way again with 12 tackles, and Ryan Gavronski followed closely with 10 tackles. John Miller added nine tackles and a sack, Billy Carr had eight tackles, and Jayden Renehan and Kyle Messenger each tallied seven tackles.
Southington was doing well on defense until Logan Tomlinson hit Jaheim Carr for a 41-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds left in the first half. The touchdown followed the first of two interceptions thrown by Drena.
“We turned the ball over offensively, and they scored that next series,” Drury said. “Those are the things we talk about with sudden change and wanting a team to not score after that sudden change. We don’t want to turn the ball over to start, but once we do, don’t have two negatives. Let’s try to get a positive out of that, force a field goal or something like that.”
Instead, it was 21-7 at halftime.
“You just want to get a stop in that situation, but the defense showed up in the second half and did a great job,” Drury said.
It was nowhere near all negative for Southington’s offense. Drena connected on 26-of-34 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns. He completed passes to six different receivers and spread the ball around equally with four completions or more to five different players. Will Downes led the way in receptions with seven. but Uhlman (2 TDs) and LaRosa (TD) each had a team high 75 receiving yards on four catches.
What happened at the end of the first half and early in the third quarter is something that can be worked on.
“We’re going to do a better job of coaching them up, and these kids are workers,” Drury said. “They want to do well, they want to work hard, and they want to improve.”
Southington will be working to clean up its mistakes as it gets ready for a Hall team that is 1-2 but has found itself in each game it has played so far. The Warriors beat Simsbury 31-26 on Sept. 7, lost 12-10 to Enfield on Sept. 14, and fell 14-13 to Glastonbury on Sept. 21.
Friday’s kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Fontana Field.
“[Hall has] been in three close games, a couple heartbreakers. They’re going to play tough every single game,” Drury said. “They played us very tough last year. We really limited them with what they could do offensively last year, they had a couple injuries, but they’re going to play tough.”
The Warriors will run more than they will pass. Hall has 85 rushing attempts compared to 46 passes this season. Senior running back Leonardo Dionicio has run 39 times for 106 yards while senior captain and wide receiver Nolan Tibball has carried 21 times for 113 yards and all three of the Warrior rushing touchdowns.
“They’re going to play tough, they’re going to play really solid football,” Drury said. “They’re really well-coached, they have a system that they run and they stick to it. We just got to make sure that we don’t turn the ball over, keep the ball in our possession, limit our mistakes, and play the brand of football that we want to play.”
Southington has done some really good things in the first three games of this season. Limiting mistakes will make the Blue Knights an even more dangerous team to deal with.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com.