By KEVIN ROBERTS
Leadership comes from all parts of a football team. Some players lead with their words, and others lead with their actions. Southington has a mix of both on this year’s team, which was undefeated (9-0) entering the Apple Valley Classic against Cheshire on Thanksgiving morning.
“I try to be as vocal as I can, and I try to tell my boys if they’ve got a question or something, I’ll answer it for them,” said senior captain and linebacker Kyle Messenger. “It’s just making sure everybody’s doing their job, focusing on practice, and just trying their best, because there’s no settling for laziness on defense.”
The numbers speak for themselves. Messenger has amassed 76 tackles with two deflected passes and a pair of sacks. Fellow linebackers Angelo Plantamuro (90 tackles), Billy Carr (81 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 pass deflected) and Josh Vitti (10 tackles, interception) let their aggressive play do the talking on the field. Plantamuro, Carr and Vitti are all juniors, and Messenger was a substitute as a junior last season before assuming a starting role as a senior this year.
“Since we lost so many people from last year we had a lot of inexperienced guys,” Messenger said. “We’ve all stepped up a lot. The linebacking corps are all leaders on our defense, and I feel like everybody else feeds off of us.”
Southington emphasizes speed on defense, whether it’s the linebackers, guys up front like John Miller (80 tackles, 6 sacks) and Ryan Gavronski (54 tackles, 1 sack), or defensive backs like Johnny Carreiro (40 tackles, 2 interceptions) or J.T. Martin (34 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 interception, 13 deflected passes).
The Blue Knights also have a fast-paced offense, and senior captains Jacob Drena (quarterback) and Tanner LaRosa (running back) often get the headlines. Southington wouldn’t have success in its up-tempo style without the big boys up front, who are often overlooked. One of those is senior captain and guard Owen Bouchard.
“You don’t get a stat, you don’t get much recognition, so it’s got to come from within,” Bouchard said.
Bouchard and fellow seniors Sam McCarty, Ethan Agli and Adam Bull team up with juniors Jacob Vecchio and David Sullivan to give Southington’s skill players an opportunity to do damage. You can’t have one without the other.
“We realize that our offense is pretty much dictated off of how we play, every game, whether it’s passing or running, so we take a lot of pride in that,” Bouchard said.
Bouchard said keeping a positive attitude has helped the Blue Knights through their good times and their struggles.
“The positive attitude keeps people going and makes them realize, alright, these people want to win, I want to win, and we can do this together,” Bouchard said.
And of course, the Southington defense and offense go up against each other in practice, which helps everyone who wears blue and white.
“Going against our offense in practice, it’s fast-paced, it’s really hard, so once we get to games, we’re really relaxed and know what we’re doing,” Messenger said.
Southington seniors like Messenger and Bouchard had all the motivation they needed coming into the season. The Blue Knights missed the playoffs last year, and it was very important to get back. Southington will be in the playoffs, and it played for an undefeated regular season and a home quarterfinal playoff game on Thanksgiving morning.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com