BY ROGER CLEAVELAND
NEW BRITAIN—As adeptly as he eluded opposing tacklers Saturday night, Southington High senior co-captain Alex Jamele downplayed becoming the first player in state history to finish his career with 50 touchdown receptions.
He modestly explained that the Blue Knights’ second consecutive state championship meant much more to him than his own personal accomplishments, and that neither would have been possible without a total team effort.
Certainly in dominating a quality Norwich Free Academy team, 49-0, in the Class LL-Large Division state title game at Willowbrook Park, the undefeated Blue Knights (12-0) put forth an impressive all-around performance worthy of staking claim to the No. 1 overall ranking in the state.
Offensively, quarterback Jasen Rose completed 24 of 31 passes for 348 yards and five touchdowns with Matt Maxwell posting game-high totals of eight catches for 127 yards and three touchdowns. Providing a little bit of balance, Vance Upham rushed for 104 yards on 15 carries including a 40-yard touchdown run.
Led defensively by 14 tackles from Dan Williams and 10 by Matt Thomson, the Blue Knights swarmed to the ball with such aggression and speed that they held NFA to only 98 yards of total offense. Zach Spooner chipped in with seven tackles and Matt Koczera contributed six.
Despite all those great performances, Jamele stood out, and not just because he caught a pair of touchdown passes to give him 18 for the season and 50 for his career, good enough to break the state career record of 49 previously set this season by Newtown’s Julian Dunn.
Jamele distinguished himself Saturday by impacting the outcome in every phase of the game and breaking the state receiving record.
“The record is great, but I really feel it was a team effort,” Jamele said. “And definitely the win feels great, a lot better than the record. I think it is because we stuck to our game plan on both sides of the ball and on special teams we really had a big day. Offense and defense listened to our coaches and executed, and all 92 had an impact in this game. The offensive line, Jay Rose throwing great balls, receivers getting open. It wasn’t just an individual effort.”
Clearly others made it possible for Jamele to have such a great championship game Saturday, but he also made it possible for his teammates to win in such a seemingly easy fashion.
“Alex is something else, a remarkable player,” linebacker Steven Hamel said. “He brings energy to the field and just knows how to bust a big play. He has a very positive attitude. You will never see him get down on himself or come down on anybody. He has both athleticism and the will to win.”
Offensively, Jamele caught seven passes 126 yards and the two touchdowns. He had three plays of 20 yards or more and also had a 17-yarder negated by a penalty. On a 3rd-and-31 play on the Knights’ second possession of the game, he converted with a 64-yard pass play that set up his first touchdown of the game. He also made an 11-yard catch on a 4th-and-9 play, and then two plays later scored on a 23-yard pass midway through the third quarter.
“The way he went out tonight just shows how much of an athlete he is,” quarterback Jasen Rose said. “It shows his character. He kid is incredible. The plays the makes. In a state championship game, the plays he is making should not be made. It is just incredible.”
Defensively, while Jamele was credited with only three tackles, he added a pass defense on a 4th-and-10 play to deny NFA a first down and also intercepted a pass at his own 25-yard line.
As if that wasn’t enough, Jamele also stunned defenders, coaches and fans alike when he fielded a bouncing punt in traffic and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown. Also on special teams, his hustle continued midway through the fourth quarter when he downed a Southington punt at the NFA 1-yard line.
“He is a great athlete, but he is a better competitor,” assistant coach Chuck Drury said. “You saw him fielding those punts, catching the football. He runs after the catch. He is competitive every day. What you see on the field, he shows us every day in practice. It is not like he just shows up and plays on game day. He goes up after the ball. He makes a good step. He makes a good block downfield. There is no slack in that boy.”
Jamele finished this season with 76 catches for 1,032 yards and 18 touchdowns. In three varsity seasons, he compiled 173 receptions for 2,878 yards and 50 touchdowns.
“He has had a phenomenal career,” head coach Mike Drury said. “He is a tremendous competitor, a kid who plays with fire and emotion. He is just such an unbelievable player. I’m very proud of him. He runs great routes. He catches everything. He makes big plays after the catch. He has done it for three years for us at the varsity level, and now he is going to go on and do it in college.”