NEW BRITAIN - Jacob Drena knew Southington was close to figuring out what kind of football team it had this season.
The quarterback had talked about it leading up to the game against New Britain. There had been plenty of positive moments through the first four weeks of the season as well as some negative ones that were uncharacteristic of the program.
But Friday night, he believed as the Blue Knights celebrated their come-from-behind 27-24 win over the Hurricanes to remain undefeated, was a defining moment for Southington (5-0).
“This win is a mold for what we want to do,” Drena said. “Everyone has bought in to what we want to do. That was a great team. It wasn’t like [New Britain] played bad. We didn’t play our best in the first half, but they’re a great team. Now I know the guys have confidence, I have confidence and everyone is ready to grind during the bye week and get ready for Conard.”
Like many of the Blue Knights’ games this season, which have been unusually close for the program, either due to a slow start or simply allowing the other team to work its way back into contention, Friday night wasn’t always pretty, especially in the first half. But in the end, down 18-7 entering the fourth quarter, Southington found a way to make plays when it needed to.
None were bigger than the final drive, when the offense took the field with 1:34 left. Having already scored twice in the fourth to make the game 24-21, the unit was cool and collected, despite the need to drive 80 yards. It might as well have been the start of a quarter.
After an incomplete pass, Drena and the rest of the unit synced up and the march began. A pass for 10 yards to Jamie Lamson. Another 12 yards to Will Downes. Lamson again for 28 before the quarterback connected with Downes on a post corner route to the New Britain 4-yard line. Tanner LaRosa took it from there with 36 seconds left.
In a way, it was indicative of what the players and the coaching staff had been preaching throughout the season, when the mistakes and the penalties often overshadowed the good, leaving some to wonder if the Blue Knights had a chance to compete for a state title in Class LL should they roll through a relatively easy schedule in the CCC. Stick to the game plan, do what you’re supposed to do and everything will take care of itself.
The New Britain game showed, in part, a necessary resiliency needed for those big moments. Not every game, especially in December, is going to be won 30-7.
“The win’s huge,” said Drena, who finished his night 16-for-35 for 211 yards and two touchdowns, including 13-for-18 for 159 yards in the second half. “These are the types of wins that great teams make, playoff teams make.”
And as the offense went on the field for that final drive, after the defense had given up just six points after halftime, head coach Mike Drury expected his team to execute as he always does. The practices are too hard during the week not to. But did he say anything to the unit beforehand? Well, that’s still kind of a blur.
“I don’t even remember what I said to them on that final drive,” Drury said. “It was ‘let’s get our guys out on the field and see what the defense is doing.’ The key is matchups. We have four guys who really match up well against other teams. Other teams usually have two guys who can cover, they don’t usually have four.”
Now, it will just be a matter of what the Blue Knights do with this momentum and if they can build from it or if they revert back to the previous four weeks with positive results, but frustrating moments. Southington has just two difficult games remaining on its schedule, at East Hartford - one of the team’s two losses from 2017 - on Oct. 26 and the Apple Valley Classic against Cheshire on Thanksgiving.
Friday night was a good start.
“It’s a huge confidence booster and it just makes us want to work harder and beat the rest of the teams on our schedule, just not as close as this,” said Downes, who had a momentum-swinging interception late in the third that sparked the beginning of the comeback. “It shows that we have a lot of heart and that we never give up. We did our job and it worked out for us.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org