Blue Knight football: Continuing the legacy

SPENCER DREHER

STAFF WRITER

When one thinks of Class LL football in Connecticut, a few teams immediately come to mind. For most, Southington and their recent nemesis in the Class LL tournament, Darien, are probably some of the first teams that come to mind.

Since winning back-to-back state titles in 2013 and 2014, Southington has now lost to Darien three times in the Class LL tournament, each in the semifinals. That includes the Blue Knights’ 21-12 loss on Dec. 9. Over that same period, the Blue Wave has appeared in the finals four times.

Despite missing out on the playoffs just once since 2014, Southington has come up short on chances at a title. But one thing is certain, and that is the Blue Knights are a consistent threat in the Class LL rankings, year after year.

There were question marks surrounding Southington entering the 2019 season. From 2018, they lost their leading passer, rusher, and receiver, as well as their defensive leaders in sacks, tackles for loss, and takeaways.

Despite that, the Knights returned nine players who went on to receive Division I All-CCC honors, tied for the most by any school in the conference. That included senior wide receiver, Josh Vitti, who said despite the turnover of talented players year after year, Southington football always has a recipe for success.

“I think we always succeed because we learned from the role models that came before us, then we relayed that to the younger guys as seniors,” said Vitti, the Knights’ leading receiver in 2019. “This program always showed what hard work looks like and why this program should be taken seriously. You see the results every year.”

Southington arguably had one of their best defenses in recent memory this season, giving up an average of 11.83 points per game on the season, including the Class LL tournament. Since Oct. 11, they gave up over 10 points in regulation just once, and that came in the loss to Darien last week.

All-CCC players on defense included Billy Carr, Max Casella, Johnny Carreiro, and Angelo Plantamuro.

“I still think we have the best defense in the state,” senior Carter Uhlman said after the loss to Darien. “We put our defense in a lot of tough situations this year, and they always came out on top. They stop Cheshire at the one-yard line on the last play of the game, then they came right back against Ridgefield and made a stop on the final play on a pass to the endzone. Even tonight, they constantly kept us in the game but a good defense just wasn’t enough against this team.”

On the other side of the ball, Uhlman and Vitti joined running back, Dillon Kohl, to help support quarterback, Brady Lafferty, in his first season as the starter.

Lafferty finished the season completing nearly 60% of his passes for 2,083 yards. He threw 25 touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions.

Uhlman and Vitti were the only two receivers to eclipse 500 yards on the season, and they combined for 15 of Lafferty’s 25 touchdowns.

Kohl was limited to nine games this season, but still rushed 1251 yards on 187 carries and 14 touchdowns, the most scores by a running back since Vance Upham’s record-breaking season in 2016.

“It means everything to have played for this program,” the senior, Kohl, said. “Spent so much time so many great people. It was a special time here and I will never forget it.”

While Southington has managed the turnover of talent year after year, it will be a tough group of seniors to replace, for both their results on the field and their presence in the locker room.

“I am proud of this group of guys,” head coach Mike Drury said after the loss to Darien. “Especially the seniors. They did everything right. They came to work every day and always looked to improve. A real selfless group of guys. They made it fun to come here every day and I am going to miss them.”

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at SDreher@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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