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Southington High School linebacker Zach Jamele was stunned to look down and find a football hitting his leg.
The Blue Knights were tied with unbeaten Glastonbury on Saturday, backed up in front of their own end zone with a little over two minutes left in the game.
On third-and-goal from the Southington 5, Tomahawks quarterback Ben Berey dropped back to pass. He was forced to throw quickly because Blue Knights safety David Dineno was about to nail him on a blitz.
And the ball hit Jamele in the leg.
"I was pretty amazed," Jamele said. "(The ball) coming into my leg, just seeing it there, was just amazing."
Jamele intercepted the ball at his team's goal line and scrambled 65 yards to the Glastonbury 35.
Moments later, Jarrid Grimmett raced up the gut for a 17-yard touchdown with 24.6 seconds left. It gave Southington a ludicrous 28-21 come-from-behind win at Meriden's Falcon Field.
The win moved Southington (6-0) into The Day's Top 10 state coaches' poll at No. 9.
"Our defense has been the heart-and-soul of this team the entire season," Blue Knights coach Mike Drury said. "They stepped it up and proved it."
Glastonbury (5-1) was ranked eighth before the game.
The Blue Knights were flirting with disaster after Stephen Barmore was sacked by Josh Hill and fumbled.
Tomahawk defensive end Mason Grande recovered the ball at the Southington 8-yard line with three minutes, 19 seconds left in the game.
The Blue Knights have built a defensive identity this season and allowed just 28 points prior to Saturday, so it was on them to get the team out of their mess.
"(Defense) starts with a mentality, and these guys have got it," Drury said. "The mentality that we don't want anybody to move the ball on us. The mentality that we're going to play intense."
The defense allowed three yards on first and second down.
"Right when we're on the edge," Drury said, "we said, 'we're stopping them right now.'"
Stopping Glastonbury was easier said than done. It's blessed with a ridiculous number of offensive threats, enough so that it used three quarterbacks.
Berey was one of those quarterbacks, a triple threat who ran for 61 yards on eight carries and even played receiver.
The Tomahawks scored twice in the final five minutes of the first half. They went 77 yards in a little over a minute-and-half to score their second touchdown.
Glastonbury led 21-7 at halftime, and Southington had given up a very un-Southington-like 251 yards.
"I told the guys (at halftime) that we had some missed opportunities," Drury said. "We were there, we were in the right positions, but we just missed a couple of opportunities.
"They got off a couple of quick scores. (We made) a couple of mistakes. I told them, 'listen — there's two halves. Come out in the second half and have a short-term memory. Come out in the second half and let's battle, because bottom line it's (the first half) over.'"
Senior Corbin Garry had a few unlucky breaks at receiver, including a pass that went off his hands on a fourth-and-3 play at the Glastonbury 14.
Three players later, Garry intercepted a pass, giving his team the ball at the Glastonbury 11.
Barmore ran for a 2-yard touchdown as the Blue Knights cut their deficit to seven points with over two minutes left in the third quarter.
Southington's defense allowed just two yards in the third quarter and 63 yards in the second half.
"We had some mixups with the coverages and stuff, and they made a couple of good plays on us," Jamele said of the first half.
"All the guys on defense, we've all been friends forever. We all knew we needed to step up. We needed to get the offense the ball. Once we get fired up, we don't stop."
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There were two games played Saturday that were saved for today's Polecat episode. This way, neither would get lost in the shuffle, and would get the play they deserve.
The first was Foran of Milford's astonishing 50-35 win over perennial powerhouse Notre Dame of West Haven in a Southern Connecticut Conference interdivisional game.
The SCC is broken up into two divisions based on enrollment, with Division I generally having some of the best teams in the state.
Most SCC teams play two interdivisional games a season with the Division I programs whipping the Division II schools. There are always D-II coaches who disapprove of the crossovers, but it benefited Branford and Hillhouse of New Haven when each won state titles.
Foran is one of those D-II teams, and it hadn't beaten a D-I team since Wilbur Cross in 2004. And the latter doesn't have Notre Dame's football reputation.
Saturday's game was never in question as the Lions had a 43-15 lead midway the third quarter.
So, yeah, it was a big, big win for Foran (4-2). It was also its fourth win in a row.
Sophomore Jake Kasuba completed 18 of 26 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns for the Lions while Nick Weissauer ran for two touchdowns and caught another. Also, Niko DeRosa ran 21 times for 113 yards and a score.
The second game worth highlighting was one of the weekend's better stories — Bassick of Bridgeport snapped its 15-game losing streak by edging city-rival Harding, 14-6.
The Lions last won on Nov. 24, 2010 when they beat Bullard-Havens of Bridgeport, 28-12.
Vochan Fowler scored both of the Lions' touchdowns, the second a 1-yard run with four minutes left.
Bassick has struggled more than most football programs for a while now, but last season, it hired a good man for its coaching job — Derrick Lewis.
Not too long ago, Lewis was a hulking offensive guard at West Haven and two-time New Haven Register All-Area pick. He, along with Shelton's Dan Orlovsky, was part of Randy Edsall's 2001 recruiting class.
Lewis later transferred to Southern Connecticut State and was a two-year All-American. He's now a husband, father, and a minister at Bridgeport's Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
A few weeks ago, Bassick lost to Bridgeport Central. The latter had found out that former player Dwayne Cobb had been shot and killed in Bridgeport's North End.
After the game, Lewis gathered the players together for a joint prayer. Lewis, when asked about it, told the Connecticut Post's Mike Cardillo, "The fact of the matter, there's a lot going on in the city. My job isn't just to be a football coach, but to be a mentor. I'm a minister in the city. We have kids from both sides of the town at our church. These kids aren't enemies. It's not a North End vs. West End thing or any of that bullcrap. It's about playing this great game."
Quick anecdote about Lewis — at 6-foot-5, he's slightly less hulking than a bear, but was always awesome to deal with when at West Haven.
The summer after graduation, someone at Polecat HQ ran into him at his job. UConn was taking a big leap into Division I waters with a road game at then national power Miami.
Lewis was asked if he was worried at all about playing the big, bad Hurricanes.
He replied, "Man, I grew up in West Haven."
Funny guy. Good man. Here's hoping he's got the Bassick gig for as long as he wants.
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Recommended reading — Mike Cardillo's feature over at the Connecticut Post on Masuk of Monroe juniors Tatum Buckley and Russell Lilly. The fathers of both student-athletes died within a month of one another.
Buckley and Lilly have both found solace in sports. Buckley is a starting pitcher. Lilly is a receiver.
■ ■ ■ ■
The Day's Top 10 state coaches' poll with record and first-place votes in parentheses — 1. Hand of Madison (6-0, 10); 2. Ansonia (6-0, 2); 3. Staples of Westport (5-0, 1); 4. Windsor (5-0); 5. Masuk of Monroe (6-0); 6. Xavier of Middletown (5-1); 7. Greenwich (5-0); 8. West Haven (5-1); 9. Southington (6-0); and, 10. Berlin (6-0).
The New Haven Register's media poll — 1. Hand (20); 2. Staples (6); 3. Ansonia; 4. Xavier; 5. Windsor; 6. Greenwich; 7. Masuk; 8. Southington; 9. West Haven; and, 10. Newtown (6-0).
Ned Freeman's cold, calculating computer rankings for CalPreps.com and MaxPreps.com — 1. Hand; 2. Ansonia; 3. Xavier; 4. Staples; 5. Fairfield Prep (5-1); 6. Masuk; 7. Norwich Free Academy (6-0); 8. Greenwich; 9. Trinity Catholic of Stamford (6-0); and, 10. Windsor. West Haven is 12th, Southington 13th and Berlin 35th.
The Day of New London Top 10 state coaches' poll
First-place votes in parentheses, record through Saturday, points tabulated on a 30-28- 26-24-22-20-18-16-14-12-11-10-9-8-7 basis, and last week's ranking:
1. Hand (10) 6-0 384 1
KNOW THIS: The Tigers learned quickly what kind of effort it takes to maintain the No. 1 ranking as they escaped Saturday's game against No. 8 West Haven with a 21-20 win. NEXT: at North Haven, Friday, 7 p.m.
2. Ansonia (2) 6-0 358 2
KNOW THIS: Hazekiah Duncan intercepted two passes Thursday, one of which he returned for a 41-yard touchdown, in a 49-21 win over Watertown. The score wasn't even that close — the Chargers led by 35 points after three quarters. NEXT: at Crosby, Friday, 7 p.m.
3. Staples 5-0 332 3
KNOW THIS: Head coach Marce Petroccio told the Westport News that he's never had so many offensive threats on one team. Think about that, Class LL contenders. NEXT: at Darien, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
4. Windsor 5-0 294 4
KNOW THIS: The Warriors passed their first big challenge of the season Friday — they rallied four times and beat Middletown, 40-35. NEXT: vs. Farmington, Friday, 7 p.m.
5. Masuk 6-0 252 6
KNOW THIS: The Panthers have outscored opponents by an average of 36 points. NEXT: at Notre Dame-Fairfield, Saturday, 1 p.m.
6. Xavier 5-1 250 5
KNOW THIS: DeAngleo Berry ran 19 times for 131 yards and five touchdowns Friday as the Falcons took their frustrations out on Amity, 52-17. NEXT: at Hillhouse, Friday, 3 p.m.
7. Greenwich 5-0 224 9
KNOW THIS: Liam O'Neil was a model of efficiency Saturday — he completed 14 of 15 passes for 261 yards and five touchdowns as it trounced Bridgeport Central, 56-6. NEXT: at Westhill, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
8. West Haven 5-1 193 7
KNOW THIS: The Westies played for the win Saturday and were a two-point pass away from knocking off Hand. NEXT: Cheshire, Friday, 7 p.m.
9. Southington 6-0 191 NR
KNOW THIS: Glastonbury has several offensive threats, yet Southington's defense allow just 63 yards in the second half of Saturday's 28-21, come-from-behind win. NEXT: vs. Hall, Friday, 7 p.m.
10. Berlin 6-0 165 10
KNOW THIS: Senior Kevin Main only had five carries prior to Friday's game against Rockville. He was given the ball seven times in that game and ran for 43 yards and three touchdowns in a 47-0 rout. NEXT: vs. Plainville, Friday, 7 p.m.
Dropped out: Glastonbury (8).
Also receiving votes: Norwich Free Academy (6-0), 108 points; Hillhouse-New Haven (5-1), 100; Newtown (6-0), 90; Glastonbury (5-1), 89; Trinity Catholic-Stamford (6-0), 67; Middletown (5-1), 62; New Canaan (5-1), 48; Wolcott (6-0), 29; Tie, Avon (6-0) and Fairfield Prep (5-1), 22; North Branford (5-0), 20; Barlow-Redding (6-0), 15.
The following coaches voted: Tom Brockett, Ansonia; Jim Buonocore, Ledyard; Craig Bruno, Bunnell; Dave Cadelina, Bridgeport Central; Steve Filippone, Hand; Rob Fleeting, Windsor; Tanner Grove, Montville; Jude Kelly, St. Paull; Tim King, Valley Regional; Sean Marinan, Xavier; John Murphy, Masuk; Marce Petroccio, Staples; Bob Zito, Maloney.