SOUTHINGTON - Southington hosts New Britain Friday night in its quest to remain unbeaten this fall, entering the week 2-0.
The Blue Knights are coming off a week where they beat Glastonbury 28-7, looking more like themselves after winning Week 1 in a narrow 13-7 win over Maloney.
The Hurricanes had two touchdowns from Diego Ortiz, who rushed for 158 yards, and had 139 yards passing from freshman quarterback Donovan Campbell in Monday's loss to East Hartford. Southington, on the other hand, raced out to a 21-7 lead off two Jack Barnum passes to Evan Anderson in the first half. A fumble in the end zone recovered by Southington led to the final score of the contest.
Southington head coach Mike Drury said the start to the season with players breaking out is a good sight, and was expected, with the progressions and improvements coming daily across the board.
"We kind of knew what we were going to have going into this year," said Drury. "We knew there were going to be plenty of guys who could handle the ball and [we could] get the ball to. ... It's all about developing the kids. They're working hard. Even the guys who are the starters, every week is a learning piece for them"
Notable players on offense for Southington entering friday include Barnum (297 yards passing with three scores this season), Lincoln Cardillo (153 yards rushing with one score), Ryan Delmonte (seven catches for 138 yards and one score) and Austin Pszczolkowski (21 tackles, 6 1/2 for a loss with 2 1/2 sacks).
For New Britain it also has been a gradual incline for them as they hold plenty of underclassmen who are still learning the ropes. New Britain lost Monday night's game 48-13, New Britain head coach Isaiah Boddie is seeing the improvements every day in a young team, and gave credit to the success of Ortiz early in his senior season.
"Deigo, he's one of our only seniors, he's done a great job of working and he's an excellent worker," said Boddie. "He grinds, is strong, physical, and he kind of took on that leadership role as one of our captains. We want to run the ball and he's big and fast and is coachable, ... (Monday) was a big improvement overall as a team, but we're nowhere near where we need to be and I think the kids understand are starting to buy into that."
For the short turnaround from Monday to Friday New Britain spent most of the week balancing the work with rest, eventually ramping it up in Thursday's practice.
"We've just been trying to find that balance of preparing for a game and also making sure our players are healthy and ready to go," said Boddie. "We just slowed it down, did the opposite, and ramped it up at the end of the week. ... It's finding that balance, finding the players we had down, and I think it worked pretty well."
The Blue Devils are now up to No. 6 in the latest GameTime CT poll, the fourth highest of Class LL schools. Drury and his team have not lowered the expectations this week, regardless of the opponent or where they're at in the rankings.
The message at Southington so far this season is about keeping the plan constant and not worrying about the added noise that comes on game day.
"One of the things our mantra always is, is it doesn't matter who we play, what their record is or where we are, we want to make sure we're improving," said Drury. "Every week we're looking to do that. For us, it doesn't matter. The focus is we're going to work just as hard against someone who has been struggling versus someone who is a top-10 team. That's kind of our mindset."
Boddie knows exactly how good Southington can be, pointing to the coachings of Drury and the Southington program's rise as one of the premier teams in the state.
"Creme de la creme. Cream of the crop," said Boddie about Southington. "Southington has been an up and coming team to beat in the CCC for the last 15 years. Coach Drury does an excellent job of running that program, of making sure the guys are ready and prepared and ready to go. That's one of the teams not only us, but every team in the CCC strives to be. I tip my hat to Coach Drury and those kids. ... We're trying to build ourselves into that program."
Boddie, a first-year head coach, has navigated the post-COVID season well enough to showcase what he's got for opponents, and is starting to catch the eyes of local opponents. Drury said the team has an opportunity to be explosive when given the chance, as shown in a 65-yard rushing score by Ortiz Monday night.
But, Southington's need to do the basics of blocking and tackling will need to be executed to ensure a Southington team that's on the rise doesn't get surprised by a New Britain team that will have nothing to lose when kick off comes at 7 p.m. on Friday.
"New Britain, they're talented. They have plenty of talent and I think the biggest thing for us is that we're taking care of the fundamentals - we're blocking well, we're tackling well," said Drury. "They've got some guys where you don't tackle well, they'll take it to the house. I've seen it a few times on film.
"We just want to play clean football, execute at a high level and play great special teams," Drury said.