Tradition helps fuel Southington football success

Published on Friday, 5 October 2018 20:30
Written by Art Secondo

The Southington High football team with an winning record has been a gracious host at home. In two games they’ve allowed underdog teams to move quickly down the field in the opening minutes to score a touchdown. But that’s where it ends.

Once again Southington has come up with a solid team, shaky at times revealing the roster of underclassmen. Yet, the Blue Knights are continuing the aerial prowess that began during the era of former coach Jude Kelly. For the past dozen seasons, the Blue Knights have unleashed a barrage of touchdown passes from the hands of Hank Papale, Scott Bard, Jasen Rose, Steve Barmore, Dan Bruetsch, Will Barmore, Matt Kelleher, Scott Otis and others who have boosted Southington into annual top 10 rankings and a state powerhouse with two state titles.

The highlight of last week’s 37-7 win over Hall High however, was not the staunch defense, the sharp passing and sticky finger receivers, but instead it was the field goal of senior kicker Evan Johanns. On a left hash mark,the ball left his kicking foot and went 47 yards over the goalpost with yards to spare. It reportedly is the longest field goal in Southington High football history and SHS had some outstanding kickers over the years when coaches began scouting local soccer teams for long range kickers.

The Blue Knights have enough talent to go unbeaten or perhaps lose one game. This team isn’t comprised of big, heavy lineman; the quarterback is a true rookie and the receivers are young. But the team is coached by eight mentors who know the game and the fiery head coach Mike Drury, who has now amassed over 70 wins and a meager nine defeats in regular season play.

This 2018 squad has an array of players who saw little action a year ago when the Blue Knights failed to make the post-season tournament (8-2) in more than a decade. Football tradition has granted Southington a walloping edge on other schools since tradition is big there.

Tradition in sports relies on repetition of winning and sportsmanship. One can’t see it or feel it unless you are part of the community. It began back in Lewis High that became Southington High in 1950. It carried over to the semi-pro Gems, a team comprised by standout Lewis football players. It continued at SHS and got a tremendous boost when two graduates, Vin Clements (1966) and Tom Cichowski (1962) were signed to pro football contracts. Quarterback Scott Otis also had a brief stint with Baltimore.

The tradition continued when the local gridsters defeated rival Plainville 24 years in a row on Thanksgiving morning before our neighbors finally won in 1970. Tradition stays alive in town when Lewis and Southington football records show only three losing seasons in 80 years.

Tradition is alive when the football roster is filled to capacity each fall. Young men want to play, or at least be on a SHS football team, plus earning a football letter at SHS is a like a receiving a purple heart. The coveted sports tradition has instilled outstanding community pride, something that fills the stands at each home game.

The late Joe Fontana, the true architect of Southington football, scheduled larger schools for games in the 1950s and was a rugged mentor, taking average athletes and making them standouts on the field. The game plan back in the 1950s and 1960s was to punish the opposing defenses with a potent running game featuring offensive plays that no longer are used. Larger school teams were stunned by small Southington teams that won on desire and physical prowess.

It was reported that when Fontana spotted a huge student in the hallways, he’d do his best to get the young man to play football. In the 1960s youth football programs sprouted up in town becoming “farm systems” for the varsity at SHS. Good equipment, the best in uniforms, school support by educators and the administration and, of course, the hiring of good coaches have contributed to this outstanding winning tradition.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Southington Herald on Friday, 5 October 2018 20:30. Updated: Friday, 5 October 2018 20:32.