STAMFORD - With time winding down, Southington quarterback Will Barmore heaved a pass into the end zone to Anthony Plantamuro.
It fell incomplete and for a final few seconds, Plantamuro laid on his back, hands against his facemask. In the span of 48 grueling minutes, the season had starkly come to a close.
It was a scene much similar to the one that played out just a year ago. The offense a microcosm of itself and the defense, which always seemed to have an answer when needed earlier this year, was gashed through the air and on the ground in yet another rout at the hands of Darien Monday night. This time by a 38-7 score.
For the second straight season, the Blue Knights were bullied around the turf field, often looking like the teams they would play throughout the course of the regular season when they would normally control from start to finish. And for the second straight year, Southington appeared to being playing a reflection of itself, not quite knowing how to adjust.
The Blue Knights offense, which had not scored less than 35 points in any game, was held in check, except for an eight-play, 77-yard drive capped off by a 12-yard touchdown pass from Barmore to tight end Richie Rivera with 3:48 left in the first half. The unit totaled just 238 yards of total offense for the game.
Missing a wide open Plantamuro for what looked to be a sure first down on Southington’s first drive proved to be indicative of the night that would transpire - nothing really going right for the Blue Knights and everything going the Blue Wave’s way.
After trading punts to start the game, Southington found itself down 14-0 before it had time to blink after Darien scored twice in the span of three minutes. The Blue Wave remained in control over the final three quarters.
“You can’t play a team like this from behind and that’s unfortunately what we had to do,” Blue Knights head coach Mike Drury said.
It was just the beginning.
Darien was in the backfield much of the night, wrecking havoc on Barmore and the offense. Once again, the Southington offensive line proved to be a bit of a weak link. A group, which, for the first 11 games of the season, had been solid in both run and pass blocking, simply looked overmatched both speed- and power-wise against the Darien front four. No matter who lined up for the Blue Wave it seemed, Barmore was under duress. He was sacked eight times, losing 56 yards.
There were also the pressures that forced the signal caller to either get rid of a pass sooner than he needed to or vacate the pocket.
Barmore finished the game 15-for-34 for 147 yards and two interceptions to go along with the touchdown pass. His longest completion went for 25 yards to Plantamuro late in the fourth quarter.
Running back Vance Upham managed to rush for 148 yards on 20 carries, but was held out of the end zone for the first time all season.
“Our guys battled upfront best they could,” Drury said. “They gave everything they had, but Darien just had a little more [Monday].
“There are ups and downs and that’s no fault of their own. Those things happen, but I’m proud of the guys the way they worked and battled through the entire year. We had nine guys coming into the year as varsity linemen and [Monday] we had six and all six played and all six battled.”
But it was more than the offensive line. Drury had said heading into the game his team would need to win the field position and turnover battles. They won neither, though only one of the three turnovers led to a Darien score.
Throughout the entire first half, the Blue Wave only operated on their side of the field once, consistently starting between the 40- and 47-yard lines. On Darien’s four first-half scoring drives, all started in Blue Knights territory.
“They had the field position battle on us in the first half and we couldn’t flip the field,” the head coach said. “We tried to get some things going and shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. They’re a tough team, a very good team.”
As the Southington offense struggled to gain any traction, the defensive unit had just as hard of a time. The Blue Wave ran what it wanted, when it wanted for the most part, collecting 378 total yards, most of which came through the air.
The Blue Knights had had trouble containing the intermediate passing game in recent weeks and Monday night, Darien did just that, dinking and dunking the entire way down the field in the same manner it did last season.
The Blue Wave receivers would simply find holes in the defense as quarterback Brian Peters completed 19 of 28 passes for 259 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. Peters could not throw the ball deep or with much velocity for that matter, but he did not need to. Eight different receivers caught a pass. Compared to Barmore, he had all the time he needed to decide which receiver to throw to. Darien ran the ball for just 92 yards, but three touchdowns.
More importantly, when the Blue Knights defense needed to make a play, it could not for the first time, it seemed, all season.
“They’re better upfront than they were last year without question, but they’re doing the same thing,” Drury said. “They have great skill players. They have good guys. They have a good quarterback. Hats off to them.”
There were plenty of bad calls, missed calls from the officiating crew that were blatantly obvious to anyone watching from the sidelines or the stands, well behind the usual standard. But Monday night, it almost seemed like a new level of ineptitude. Missed fumbles, holding calls and strange penalties throughout that perhaps should have been called in Southington’s favor proved costly for the Blue Knights. Anything that could have turned out to be momentum swings needed to stay competitive was nullified.
That being said, Darien was the better team on the field in every which way and whether a handful of calls would have helped would have to be determined.
“We tried taking away the things they’re good at,” Drury said. “I think our defense did a good job of getting some stops when they needed. We just weren’t able to execute.”
So for the second season in a row, the Southington senior class, which had its sights set on another title, would leave with a bad taste in their mouths. That is something no one wants to do.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach