SOUTHINGTON - Ryan Delmonte's late 42-yard touchdown off the pass of Jack Barnum put Southington football (1-0) over the top Friday night in the Blue Knight's 13-7 win over Maloney (0-1).
Delmonte's reception came in space, and he was able to shake off a defender and get a block up the sideline for the go-ahead score, after which he peeled off to celebrate with his team in front of the student section.
Scoring, Delmonte said, wasn’t on his mind after catching the ball. Instead, it was aiming to get the ball into the redzone for a first down.
"I didn't really expect a touchdown out of that play, I was just hoping to get the first down and keep the offense moving. It felt great to get to turn that into a touchdown,” said Delmonte.
Assistant coach Rob Levesque said nobody was better for the moment than Delmonte, who has been working his way back from an injury.
"Delmonte, he's been laid up with a back injury for a while and he's been really working hard to get back,” said Levesque. “There's nobody that deserves it more. When he broke that tackle, you could just tell by the way he was running that he wasn't going to be denied. That was great for him."
Entering halftime, the only score on the boar was a Maloney touchdown pass to Austin Studley from 15 yards out. Southington struggled to move the ball as it was getting acclimated, tallying only 36 yards from the line of scrimmage.
The defensive battle was expected by Levesque, who credited Maloney with playing tough and capitalizing on a blown coverage for the Studley score.
"Absolutely [expected a defensive battle,]” said Levesque. “They're well coached. We had a break in coverage with their only score and then after that the kids were starting to feel comfortable in seeing everything. I think they did a really good job on defense, showing a lot of resilience in coming back out there after the blown coverage for their score in the first half."
Despite no interceptions thrown in the contest, the Blue Devils did flex its defensive strength with two redzone stops in the first half, forcing Maloney to turn the ball over on towns inside Southington’s 20-yard line.
Coming out of the gate in the second half the Blue Devils tightened things up, getting efficient blocking up front. Jared Guida's score from 18 yards out at 4:14 in the third quarter put Southington on the board with the extra point tying things up.
Following the score, the teams traded punts until Barnum connected with Delmonte on a big gain, flipping the field to put Southington on the door step of the redzone.
But, the following play, a botched snap led to Maloney recovering the ball on the 33-yard line. Fortunately for the Blue Knights, the drive stalled, resulting in a punt attempt.
The Blue Knights then blocked the punt, recovering the ball where they had originally turned it over.
The second-chance opportunity turned into a stalled drive, giving Southington a chance to take the lead on a field goal try.
The attempt failed to connect from 28 yards out to keep it 7-7. Maloney, getting the ball with a chance to milk the clock and score late, was unable to move the chains and punted away with 2:08 left in the contest.
A spark and improvement of play in the second half came from a halftime adjustment where Levesque preached body language, knowing things were bound to shift their way.
"We talked about body language a lot and coming out here and relying on the fact we work really hard, ... eventually things were going to start to pop for us, and they did,” said Levesque. “We started blocking better up front, ... it took us a little while to get into that flow.
Delmonte's score with 1:14 on the clock was the late points Southington needed, proving to be enough even with the extra point missing.
After an injury timeout, Southington was able to force an incomplete pass with 29.1 seconds on the clock after a Jackson Rusiecki sack on third down kept the clock. The combination of plays capped off the game as the Knights turned the ball over on downs, allowing Southington the chance to kneel out the clock for the win.
Delmonte finished the night with four catches for 106 yards and the score. Justin Zotofsky had five catches for 19 yards. John Flynn had three receptions for 25 yards.
Guida led in rushing with 36 yards on four carries and one score. Barnum finished the night 13-for-23 with 163 yards and one score.
With plenty of inexperience on the field for both sides, Levesque feels his squad has worked hard to gain experience in areas they may lack entering this season.
"I think everybody is in the same position," said Levesque. "They look at us to have veterans coming out every year, but with COVID and the situation, we did whatever we could with the time we were given by the CIAC and everyone else. ... Nobody works harder than these kids, and that's the bottom line."
Delmonte echoed a similar tone about his teammates, knowing that the experience is there for his guys despite it not technically coming in a varsity high school football setting.
"The experience was one of our biggest worries (entering the season), but we got some reps in the independent league last year and we got a couple of games in,” said Delmonte. “I think we're not worried about that anymore. We knew this game was going to be dog fight from the beginning, so we're glad we came out on top."
Bristol Eastern 35, E.O. Smith 6
Newington 32, Enfield 24
Bloomfield 7, Bristol Central 6
Kennedy 14, St. Paul 0
Berlin 33, Middletown 0
Plainville 27, South Windsor 25
Southington 13, Maloney 7
Maloney (0-1) 0 7 0 0
Southington (1-0) 0 0 7 6
M – Austin Studley 15 pass from Angel Arce (kick good), 1:34
S – Jared Guida 18 run (Jack Barnum kick), 4;14
S – Ryan Delmonte 42 pass from Jack Barnum (Barnum kick no good), 1:14
Rushing – Maloney: Kenny McMillian 6-38, Kuron Wiggins 9-23. Southington: Jared Guida 4-36-1TD, Javon Thomas 6-9, Jack Barnum 6-(-2)
Passing - Maloney: Angel Arce 17-32-178-1TD. Southington: Jack Barnum 13-23-163-1TD
Receiving – Maloney: Ian Graham 10-119. Southington: Ryan Delmonte 4-106-1TD, Justin Zitofsky 5-19, Gavin Anderson 1-13, John Flynn 3-25.