NEW CANAAN - Seventh-seeded Southington football will head to No. 2 New Canaan on Tuesday for a quarterfinal round matchup in the Class LL football state tournament.
The Blue Knights qualified for the playoffs for the third straight season with an 8-2 record, with their most recent win coming against Cheshire for the Apple Valley Trophy on Thanksgiving. The Rams will enter the matchup with a 9-1 record after winning the FCIAC Eastern Division.
“This is what we call the meat grinder,” Southington coach Mike Drury said. “You get three or four days of preparation after Thanksgiving and then you get ready to go down there and play a great game with New Canaan.”
The Blue Knights played stout defense on Turkey Day as they only allowed 10 points, and with a superior opponent on deck, preventing points from piling up is their top priority.
“We did a great job defensively stopping the run,” Drury said. “That was a huge emphasis. New Cannan, they have the ability to throw the football, but they can run and we have to play the same way, use the same technique. Our guys are up to the challenge.”
On the opposite side of the ball, Southington will look to get back to its high-scoring tendencies from earlier this season. The Blue Knights scored 40 or more points for four consecutive games over a month-long stretch and Drury feels his offensive line will play an important role in whether or not they'll have success on offense.
“Those guys have worked tremendously hard all season,” Drury said. “We're going to need that physical brand of football. We're expecting them to play at a high level.”
New Canaan appears to be a very well-rounded team as it's scored 286 points in 10 games, but has allowed just 86 points. In fact, the last team to score more than seven points against the Rams was Wilton with 20, which also happened to count as its only loss of the season, back on Oct. 23.
“They have a great defense, they've held teams to low points,” Drury said. “The expectation offensively is we want to score and we want to hold them to less than we score. Games like this, we want to limit mistakes and play good position football, I think that's highly important.”
In 2019, the Blue Knights beat Ridgefield, 13-9, in the quarterfinals, but fell to Darien in the semifinals, 21-12. Southington will be on the road the rest of this season, unlike two years ago when it hosted the Tigers and Blue Wave during both postseason battles.
Now getting their first taste of playoff football since then, the Blue Knights are looking forward to proving they are one of the best programs in the state.
“Our expectation every year is to make the playoffs and make a run,” Drury said. “We're hungry for it and this senior class is extremely hungry. To finally have that back, it's exciting. It's what you do it for. You want to maximize your potential as a team.”
Kickoff for Tuesday's game is set for 6:30 p.m.
Ryan Ames can be reached at 860-801-5094 or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.