SOUTHINGTON - For perhaps the first time all season, the Southington football team played uncharacteristically of itself Friday night against New Britain.
Usually crisp and clean both offensively and defensively, the Blue Knights offered up plenty that needed to be corrected before next week’s game.
Will Barmore threw three interceptions and was sacked three times. The defense, which had given up just 87 rushing yards all season and -79 over the last three weeks, allowed some gaping holes to the Hurricanes’ run game for a total of 150 - 93 to Shawn Robinson - and three touchdowns, season highs.
And at the half, No. 2 Southington held a mere eight-point lead, 28-20, before rolling to a 42-20 victory in the end to pick up its eighth consecutive win over New Britain.
“New Britain did a really great job,” Blue Knights head coach Mike Drury said. “They have some really tough guys up front and they fought hard on every single play and a couple of their athletes did a great job on the offensive side of the ball.
“Hats off to them, but our guys battled and got the job done.”
A game like this, however, might have been exactly what Southington needed.
Prior to Friday night, the Blue Knights had yet to face any real challenge this season.
Their first five opponents held a combined record of just 11-19 at the conclusion of Week 6, with Southington managing to beat them by an average of 40-5. In four of those games, opponents were held to a touchdown or less.
With not much to gain from those games other than the equivalent of preseason tune ups, a little adversity to begin the season’s second half might do some good.
With games against South Windsor and Cheshire to end the regular season and multiple playoff games most likely to follow, the matchup against New Britain provided a necessary learning experience moving forward, something the other teams had been unable to provide.
A thank you might be a little too much, but it just might prove to be a positive. Those other teams are not going to be as easy as Glastonbury, Simsbury, Manchester, Conard and Hall.
“This is what we need, games like this,” said Blue Knights linebacker Ryan Montalvo following the New Britain game. “I’d take this [score] over a 48-0 win any day of the week because these are games we actually learn from. We have film to look at that’ll make us better.
“The 48-0 isn’t my kind of thing, I’ve never really liked that. We definitely have a lot to improve on. The first half [of the season] was good, but the second half of the year is always more challenging.”
The coaches might not have liked it as much, knowing the score could and probably should have been tilted more in Southington’s favor, but it might just make, as Montalvo said, a good team better.
The Blue Knights did make adjustments coming into the second half of Friday night’s game - they held the Hurricanes scoreless with just 55 yards of total offense, while both of their scoring drives were 11 plays or more.
What was most appealing was the presence of the running game at various points when the passing game sputtered.
In his first action of the season at tailback, Montalvo collected 76 yards and three touchdowns, both long and short runs.
One score in the second quarter went 48 yards off the left tackle with his final touchdown coming as a 1-yarder through what had been a tough and physical defensive line for New Britain.
With the senior looking like he will have a bigger role within the offense, it could make a dangerous unit even more so.
“He brings that explosive pop, that ability to break the big one once we get it blocked up with him accelerating down the field,” Drury said. “He did a great job [Friday].”
Yet what made the biggest difference on the night was, when given the chance, Southington took advantage of its opportunities, while the Hurricanes could not.
Despite the Blue Knights turning the ball over three times, New Britain did little damage. Southington, on the other hand, recovered a muffed Hurricanes kickoff return and an onside kick and proceeded to score both times.
“They only had one score off turnovers,” Montalvo said. “That’s what it really comes down to. If you’re given an opportunity to score, you’ve gotta take it if you want to win the game.”
And with a 5-1 East Hartford team waiting in the wings, the Blue Knights will have a chance to show what exactly they have learned from New Britain. A challenge after all, does not have to be a bad thing.
“You always want to have a challenge,” Drury said. “You just want to execute your style of play.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach