SIMSBURY, September 14 – The Southington High football program has a reputation – and it is a well-deserved reputation – for throwing the ball a lot.
But on Friday in a CCC Division I West contest, the Blue Knights kept the ball on the ground, rushing for just over 200 yards in Friday night’s 21-7 victory over Simsbury at Holden Field. Southington’s senior QB Jacob Drena completed 12-of-20 passes for 213 yards and two TDs but it was the running game that helped wear out the Trojans in the second half.
“They were trying to limit our possessions so we had to try and maximize ours and occasionally that will happen,” Southington head coach Mike Drury said.
The Blue Knights (2-0, 1-0 CCC Div. I West) saw openings to run the ball so they did. Tanner LaRosa ran the ball for a game-high 191 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, breaking tackles on many carries throughout the game. He ran for another touchdown that was erased by a Southington penalty.
Southington, which is ranked No. 11 in the latest state coaches football poll, had two touchdowns erased with penalties in the second quarter. The Blue Knights committed 10 penalties for 95 yards that slowed down their high tempo, no huddle offense.
“It was sloppy,” Drury said. “We know that. The kids know that. They did a good job responding to get the job done.”
No team likes to begin a season with a 0-2 record. But Simsbury High head coach Dave Masters saw some positive signs from his team.
“I liked their passion. Their effort,” Masters said. “We took advantage of opportunities. We didn’t go in the opposite direction if something didn’t go our way. They didn’t show fear. They were just ready to go.”
Simsbury forced a pair of Southington turnover with Aiden Brown intercepting a pass and Spencer Meace recovering a fumble. Defensive end Will Bonnell had a sack.
The Trojans have suffered some lopsided defeats to the Knights in the past few years. In the last five meetings, Southington has defeated Simsbury by an average of nearly 40 points a game.
But it was different on Friday night. It was a 7-7 game when Southington got the ball on their own 22-yard line with 4:48 remaining in the first half. The Blue Knights quickly marched down the field, sparked by a 48-yard run by LaRosa.
Three consecutive runs by LaRosa put the ball on the Simsbury two-yard line. LaRosa scored on a two-yard run but the touchdown was called back due to an illegal shift penalty. A six-yard run from LaRosa moved the ball to the one but on second down, there was a fumble before Southington QB Jason Drena recovered on the Simsbury eight-yard line.
On the next play, Drena found Cartler Uhlman open near the right side of the field for a eight-yard touchdown pass with 2:29 remaining in the first half and a 14-7 lead.
Southington got the ball back and tried to add to the lead. After a Simsbury punt, they quick drove to the Simsbury 15-yard line. But a 15-yard touchdown pass from Drena to Uhlman was negated by a holding penalty. The Blue Knights got as far as the 10-yard line but a field goal attempt failed thanks to a low, skidding snap.
Southington used a heavy dose of LaRosa to extend the lead to 21-7 in the third quarter. LaRosa rushed seven times for 59 yards including the final four plays of a 10-play, 85-yard march. His eight-yard run with 6:38 left in the third quarter gave the Blue Knights a 14-point lead.
On their first drive of the game, Simsbury drove to the Southington 21-yard line and when the drive stalled, the Trojans were set to try a field goal. But a five-yard penalty for a false start moved the Trojans back so the Simsbury offense trotted back out onto the field.
QB Jackson Butler found Chase Colby in the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass. Colby had to outwrestle two Southington defenders for the ball. But, alas, it was called back due to a holding penalty. So, Simsbury punted.
But the Trojans kept the ball when Southington’s kick returner fumbled and Meace recovered the ball for Simsbury.
Southington took a 7-0 lead on an 80-yard pass from Drena to Jacob Flynn with 40 seconds left in the first period. Simsbury responded immediately.
Butler, who completed eight of 20 passes for 127 yards, found Jeffrey Coleman deep downfield. Coleman had a step on the defender, shook him off once he caught the ball and ran downfield for a 59-yard touchdown reception. Kory Zall’s extra point tied the game at 7-7 with 10:13 left in the second quarter.
Things don’t get any easier for Simsbury. The Trojans travel to East Hartford next Friday night to face the undefeated Hornets (2-0), who were ranked No. 6 in the state coaches poll. The Hornets are led by talented quarterback Raquan Tompkins.
“As a program, it (stinks) to be 0-2 but we’re taking steps to set up (a successful season),” Masters said. “We feel we can compete with anybody if we play our best football.”
NOTES: Simsbury’s hard-running running back Brad Benson had a team-high 92 yards on 20 carries with a majority of carries right into the teeth of the defense. … Southington was called for 10 penalties for 95 yards. Simsbury was flagged eight times for 65 yards. … Three touchdowns in the game were called back due to penalties. … Simsbury’s history of games against Southington date back more than 100 years. The two teams played each other in 1910. The series continued through 1937 before it took a long pause. The two schools played each other again from 1969-73 when both were members of the Central Valley Conference. The series resumed again in 2004 when both were members of the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC). Since 2004, Southington has won 14 of 15 games. Simsbury’s last win over the Knights was in 2009 with a 29-26 victory.
Southington 21, Simsbury 7
Southington (2-0) 7 7 7 0 – 21
Simsbury (0-2) 0 7 0 0 — 7
Southington – Jacob Flynn 80 pass from Jacob Drena (Evan Johanns kick), 0:40
Simsbury – Jeffrey Coleman 59 pass from Jackson Butler (Kory Zall kick), 10:13
Southington – Carter Uhlman 8 pass from Drena (Johanns kick), 2:29
Southington – Tanner LaRosa 8 run (Johanns kick), 6:38
RUSHING: Simsbury –Brad Benson 20-92, Jackson Butler 10-54, Dan Sohn 1-1; Southington – Tanner LaRosa 21-191, Dillon Kohl 5-14, Jacob Drena 3-2, Evan Johanns 1-minus 4
PASSING: Simsbury – Jackson Butler 8-20-1, 127; Southington – Jacob Drena 12-20-1, 213
RECEIVING: Simsbury – Jeffrey Coleman 3-73, Colby Chase 3-28, Brad Pfaff 2-11; Southington – Jacob Flynn 2-93, Will Downes 3-27, Carter Uhlman 4-46, Josh Vitti 2-24
INTERCEPTIONS: Derek Bedner (Southington) 1-15; Aiden Brown (Simsbury) 1-10; FUMBLE RECOVERY: Spencer Meace (Simsbury) 1; SACKS: Will Bonnell (Simsbury) 1-6; Eli Steindl (Southington) 1-14, Jacob Vecchio (Southington) 2-8
MISSED FG: Zall 34