By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington football returns home this week for its game against Manchester with a 3-1 record. The Blue Knights only got there by surviving another close road encounter with the Warriors of Hall High School this past Saturday.
Southington had a pair of three-touchdown leads, but had to hold on for a 28-21 win at Chalmers Stadium in West Hartford. That field has been the scene of other rough games for Southington against Hall, and this past Saturday’s contest almost became another one.
“I thought they did a really good job,” coach Mike Drury said about Hall. “They’re always a very well-coached team. They’re a very well-coached team in terms of what they do schematically. Their players, I don’t think they made many mistakes out there. They really didn’t, and we made a lot, so we’ve got to improve on that. Hats off to them, they played really hard.”
After what is sure to be a very focused week of practice, Southington hosts Manchester on Friday at 7 p.m. on the turf of Fontana Field. The Red Hawks are 2-2 following a 19-16 road win over Enfield this past Saturday. Sophomore quarterback Adrian Parker has been leading a solid passing attack for Manchester thus far. He has spread the ball around pretty evenly to several different receivers.
“Their coach [Roy Roberts] does a good job. They have a bunch of athletes,” Drury said about the Red Hawks.
The Knights twice led by 21 points, but the Warriors scored two straight touchdowns to close to within 28-21 with 7:54 remaining in the fourth quarter. Hall stuffed Southington after a yard on 4th and 2 from the Warrior 19. Hall took over on downs and had the ball at its own 18 with 3:37 to play, needing a touchdown to tie. There would be no miracle.
On the first play, Billy Carr flew past the Hall blockers and sacked quarterback Matt Keller for an eight-yard loss. The Warriors were held to no gain on second down, then Angelo Plantamuro knocked down a Keller pass to force fourth down. On its own 10, Hall had no choice but to punt the ball away to Southington.
The Knight offense faced its own big play, a 3rd and 7 at their own 43 with 1:48 to play. Brady Lafferty (14-of-18, 163 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) found Shane LaPorte for a 22-yard gain and a first down. After Dillon Kohl (26 carries, 219 yards, 2 touchdowns) burst down the left sideline for 23 more yards, Hall was forced to call its final timeout. Lafferty took a pair of knees, and Southington escaped with the win.
“I think we made some plays defensively, and we got first downs,” Drury said. “That’s what you got to do in those situations.”
After the game, Drury talked with his team about the mistakes made and what needed to be done. He also gave credit to Hall.
“They played hard, they play tough,” Drury said. “That’s what they do, and that’s what good teams are supposed to do. I thought our guys played hard, played tough. We just got to clean up some of the mistakes.”
Carr was one of four Southington defenders to finish with eight tackles. Another was Max Casella (two sacks), who suffered a dislocation during the game. Casella had it popped back in, and he returned to the field.
“That’s the kind of toughness we’re talking about with our program, and we’re proud of him for that,” Drury said. “That just shows that he wants it, and he cares. He cares about his brothers, and he’s a tough-minded individual.”
Anthony Henderson had eight tackles and a half-sack, as did Riley Clingan. Plantamuro tallied seven tackles; Troy Kieras had three tackles and a pass break-up; and Johnny Carreiro added three tackles and a blocked kick.
On offense, Carter Uhlman led the receiving corps with six catches for 93 yards. Josh Vitti had five receptions for 64 yards and two touchdowns. LaPorte ran for 17 yards, had 15 yards receiving, and threw for 36 yards on 3-of-3 passing. Jack Barnum connected on all four of his extra-point attempts.
A 27-yard touchdown connection from Lafferty to Vitti got Southington on the board with 6:20 left in the first quarter. Kohl ran 74 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 3:57 to play in the opening quarter. When Vitti caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Lafferty at the 10:41 mark of the second quarter, Southington led, 21-0. Hall cashed in on an interception when Keller ran for a six-yard touchdown. Noe Ruelas’ first of three extra points without a miss made the score 21-7 with 2:53 to play until halftime.
Kohl ran 10 yards for a touchdown and a 28-7 Southington lead with 7:32 remaining in the third quarter. Hall scored on a Keller sneak from a yard out to make the score 28-14 with 5:33 left in the third quarter. Keller’s final touchdown run of the game, also a sneak from a yard out, cut the Knight lead to 28-21 with 7:54 to play. Southington held on to win, but there were lessons to be learned from the close call.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com