NEW BRITAIN - If recent history has taught us anything, it is the New Britain-Southington football rivalry has not been much of one.
The Hurricanes have just one win against the Blue Knights since 2006 - a 3-0 victory in 2008 - while Southington has won 10 of the last 11, including last season’s 41-17 victory to make it eight straight. During that span, New Britain has been outscored 320-110.
“Coach [Mike] Drury says it best,” said Blue Knights quarterback Will Barmore regarding the team’s success against the Hurricanes, “we win our games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We don’t even think about who we’re playing. You can’t just flip the switch Friday night, it just doesn’t work at this level. So we put in the work every week and trust that our process is going to get us the win on Friday nights.”
New Britain would like to change that trend starting with tonight’s matchup. But the Hurricanes and Southington are teams heading in different directions coming out of their bye weeks.
New Britain comes in at 2-3 alternating between losses and wins over the first half of the season highlighted by inconsistency. In their wins against Manchester and Hall, the Hurricanes have scored 63 and 43 points respectively. In their losses to Conard, No. 11 South Windsor and Simsbury, they have scored 22 points or less and allowed an average of 27.
The second-ranked Blue Knights, meanwhile, are 5-0, having won their games by an average score of 40-5. And although the offense has more of an explosive passing game than it did a season ago with Barmore and receivers Tim O’Shea and Will Downs, the team boasts a defense that has held four opponents to a single touchdown or less.
“They’re a strong team and a great front seven and they have some good players on their D-Line,” New Britain quarterback Jahfari Newman said. “But we’re just going to go out there and attack it the same way - we’re playing to win. If you’re not out there to win, you don’t really want to play. We have to execute, everyone has to do their own job and play fundamental football. We have to limit the mistakes coming into the game.”
Despite the up-down-nature of the Hurricanes, Southington is not taking them lightly, noting the number of athletes New Britain has, especially at the skills positions with Newman, running back Shawn Robinson and receivers Tahje Yopp and Jayshawn Alexandre being the most dangerous.
“New Britain is a good team. They just haven’t put it together, which is what we have to watch out for,” Blue Knights linebacker Ryan Montalvo said. “I expect their quarterback to play a good game. He’s probably one of the better quarterbacks we’re going to play this year. He can throw, he can run and get out of the pocket. He has the athletic attributes to be a game changer. And then their running back is a really good player. They have a couple of good O-Linemen, but they don’t look like they’re going to blow you away with speed on their O-Line.”
Playing well is space and tackling well are musts in this type of matchup, according to Drury, with the Hurricanes being their most dangerous when they are able to take advantage of mismatches and utilize their speed to orchestrate short-quick scoring drives.
“We need to force them to drive the field and not allow them to have the big plays, which they’ve shown the ability to do,” Drury said.
In order to be competitive, New Britain will have to take advantage of its red zone opportunities, something it has failed to do on a consistent basis. The Hurricanes have scored multiple times in each half just twice this season. Both times happened to lead to wins.
Southington’s defense, however, has proven capable of making plays, tallying 41 tackles for loss, 23 sacks and eight interceptions.
“[Southington’s] a team that doesn’t lose in the conference,” Hurricanes head coach Tebucky Jones said. “They execute well and play hard. It doesn’t matter from the first quarter to the fourth quarter, they ball out the whole time and in a lot of games, I think the will they have ends up having them oversee some of the other teams.”
But New Britain believes this game will be different than those previous matchups. It has to be with the Hurricanes looking to avoid another .500 season and can only afford one more loss to do so.
“Every time we play we play against Southington, it’s Southington week,” Alexandre said. “That’s the whole mindset. That’s our biggest rival throughout the season and so no matter where we are throughout the season, we want to treat this like a championship game and that’s how we’re going to come into this. We’re going to come in like we’re going to win this game. It is always a test against Southington. They’re a great team, we just have to do our part. This game is going to come down to who wants it the most.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach