By KEVIN ROBERTS
Coming off of a frustrating loss to Darien, Southington football looked a set a tone for last Friday’s home opener against Enfield on the turf of Fontana Field. It only took a few seconds.
The Blue Knight defense forced the Eagles into a three-and-out after their opening drive lost six yards. On the ensuing punt, Josh Vitti caught the ball on the Southington side of the field and nearly ran it back for a touchdown. Two plays later, Vitti scored on a short pass from Brady Lafferty.
The tone was set, and Southington didn’t slow down on the way to a 41-0 first half. The Knights blew out the previously undefeated Eagles, 55-6, and improved to 2-1 on the season.
“It was good. There wasn’t a ton of change in practice in terms of how our preparation was,” said Blue Knight coach Mike Drury. “I think it was just where your focus is, and just making sure your focus is there every day. We didn’t have a good week of practice the previous week [before Darien].”
Drury continued: “This is what we have to do, this is how we got to handle it. It’s a long season, we got to do that every week in terms of our preparation and practice.”
The Southington defense held Enfield to 88 total yards of offense, including negative five yards on the ground. Most of the Eagle offense came in the second half when the Knight subs were in the game.
“The whole defense I thought played great again. They’re just getting better and better as a unit,” Drury said. “I thought they did a really good job taking care of No. 88 [Wyatt Raymond].”
Southington took Raymond (2 catches, 62 yards) out of the game by not letting him get open. The Knights also made sure Eagle quarterback Cody Stager never felt comfortable. Stager finished 6-of-15 for 93 yards and an interception. Raymond, who is committed to Yale University, caught a Stager pass and ran for 63 yards, but that was in the second half. The other time Raymond caught a ball, he was stopped for a loss and fumbled. Stager was sacked seven times.
“Sometimes we’re pressuring, sometimes it’s just three-man pressures,” said Drury. “Our guys were doing a good job getting off blocks and making him feel uncomfortable.”
Billy Carr led the Southington defense with 10 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Anthony Henderson tallied nine tackles and Max Casella recorded eight tackles, a half-sack and a fumble recovery. Riley Clingan had five tackles and a sack while Jack McManus tallied four tackles and a pass break-up. Jackson Rusiecki had four tackles and a sack while Ryan DelMonte added two tackles, a forced fumble and a pass break-up. Donnell Mackey-Woodson had an interception.
Carr leads the team with 27 tackles and 5.5 sacks through three games. Casella has 25 tackles and two sacks.
On offense, Southington got going with Vitti’s eight-yard touchdown reception from Lafferty. That was almost right after Vitti’s near punt return for a score.
“He almost scored, so I said let’s give him a shot here on this play,” Drury said. “He’s been rock-solid for us in the special teams and the kick game. You have a guy like that who can make guys miss and be extremely dependable catching the football on the punts, that’s huge.”
Vitti finished with four catches for 48 yards. Lafferty rebounded from a tough game against Darien, finishing 12-for-15 for 179 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw touchdown passes of 38 and 44 yards to Shane LaPorte. LaPorte led the team with five catches for 132 yards and the two scores.
“We know his ability, his ability to catch the ball and run after the catch. He did a great job tonight,” Drury said about LaPorte. “You never who’s going to show up, and it’s great to see different guys show up different nights.”
As for the ground game, M.J. Bennett took advantage of the lopsided score and more playing time, rushing five times for 134 yards and touchdown runs of 54 and 20 yards.
“He’s got great wiggle, he’s got great balance,” Drury said. “He’s a rugby player, he does that all over the rugby field, so he’s really good at that.”
Dillon Kohl carried seven times for 92 yards and touchdown runs of 17 and 30 yards. Javon Thomas even got in on the action with four carries for 14 yards, including a four-yard touchdown run. Jack Barnum converted seven extra points for the Knights.
Hall on Saturday
Southington takes on Hall on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Hall High School in West Hartford. The Warriors (2-1) have won two straight games since a 9-3 overtime loss to Simsbury in the season opener. Hall defeated Cheshire, 35-28, in a Connecticut High School Football Alliance game on Sept. 20, then knocked off East Hartford, 16-15, on Sept. 28.
“They have a really good coaching staff. Coach [Frank] Robinson does a great job with those guys, and he’s going to get them prepared to play,” Drury said. “They’re a tough unit, they played a tough game against Cheshire.”
Hall favors the run more than the pass on offense. They have 85 rushing attempts in three games and only 45 pass attempts. Junior Izzo Lizardi has carried a team-high 35 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Julian Baker has rushed 26 times for 95 yards. Senior quarterback Matt Keller also has two rushing touchdowns on the season. When Keller has thrown the ball, his main target has been six-foot-four senior receiver Gabe Salomons, who has 12 receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Salomon, a free safety, leads Hall with 24 tackles. Junior middle linebacker Aidan Guzman (23) and junior outside linebacker Luke Duzan (20) have also totaled 20 or more tackles so far this season.
“They always play tough, they always play well, so we’ve got to have a great week,” Drury said.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com