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    Monday, November 28, 2022

    The Lonesome Polecat returns with a look at Southington’s rise to No. 1


    Welcome back, old friends.

    We’re a week late discussing it but it’s still worth going over — arguably the biggest play of this (still young) state high school football season was Southington going for two trailing then top-ranked Greenwich with under 4 minutes remaining on Sept. 24.

    The play didn’t just put the Blue Knights ahead for good to cap off a tremendous 21-point comeback — it also proved the level of belief that head coach Mike Drury had in his players.

    Junior receiver Evan Anderson, who had just taken a direct snap and thrown a 25-yard touchdown pass to classmate John Flynn, ran for the go-ahead conversion to give Southington a wild 29-28 road win on the Cardinals’ Homecoming Weekend.

    “I had faith that they were going to get it done,” Drury said. “The offensive line had a great surge on it and Anderson basically walked into the end zone.”

    The Blue Knights are also the new No. 1 in The Day’s Top 10 state coaches’ poll this week.

    Southington (4-0) has one of the state’s largest boys’ enrollments (1,014) but, like everyone else, it has to replenish its starting lineup yearly. It returned just five on offense and four on defense.

    The Blue Knights have a new quarterback (CJ DiBenedetto), a pitcher for last season’s Class LL baseball runner-up, and four offensive linemen.

    “We knew it was going to be a good group,” Drury said. “We typically have big senior classes, right, and a lot of those guys contribute greatly for that year. We’ve developed guys throughout the program who have three years of development with us. When their time (has come), we expect them before and they’re expecting to perform at the highest level we possibly can.

    “We knew we had a really talented group,” Drury said. “Skill-wise I think the biggest question a little bit offensively for us was our offensive line. We had one-game starter (senior guard Aaron Mysatyukow) returning, like, one player who started one game for us last year. It was actually the New Canaan game in the playoffs (a Class LL quarterfinal). … We knew he was going to be a good player.

    “The other guys, the development we do in the offseason, we do a lot of stuff in the offseason. Our weight-training. We’re in in seven-on-sevens (passing leagues) in the winter, the spring, the summer. Camp. So we knew that we were going to have a talented group, but you know you never know until you get on the field.”

    Southington uses a six-man rotation on the offensive line. Its other starters are senior captain Giovanni Chiulli (tackle), seniors Marcus Tarfano (tackle) and Jack and Quinn Walsh (guards) and sophomore Tristan Rosenberg (center).

    The Blue Knights were blitzed immediately by Greenwich as the Cardinals put up 208 yards on its first three drives to go ahead, 21-0, in the first quarter.

    “Our message as coaches was, ‘hey, we just got to go out there and make plays,,” Drury said. “We weren’t making plays. We made some mistakes, critical mistakes, both sides of the ball. We just said, ‘Hey, we’re going to be fine.’

    “I’ve been on the side of that and lost a game up 21-0 on teams. There was a long game to go.”

    Southington gradually worked its way back into the game and cut its deficit to 21-14 at the half.

    Greenwich scored again with 5 minutes left in the third quarter and took a 28-14 lead into the fourth.

    Senior Lincoln Cardillo scored on a 4-yard run with 8:13 remaining and his extra point got the Blue Knights’ within seven, 28-21.

    Southington got the ball back at its own 23 with 4:45 remaining and scored fast. Anderson threw his touchdown pass to Flynn with 3:48 left and Drury sent out the special teams unit to tie the game.

    Drury then called timeout.

    “My defensive coordinator (Robert Levesque) said during that offensive series before we scored, he’s anticipating we’re scoring,” Drury said. “He sort of put it in my ear (the idea to go for two). … ‘Hey, if we score, it works against us against them to go into overtime.’

    “We sent the (special teams) out there and then I’m just talking to some of my offensive coaches, and I said, ‘Well, let’s take a timeout and at least discuss it. Let’s bring it in.’ … I made the decision to go for two, ‘this is what we’re running’, and we got it done.”

    • • • •

    A few games of note from Week 4:

    North Haven 18, No. 1 Shelton 10

    The state’s most beloved purveyors of GOD’S FATHER’S OFFENSE (single wing) shut out the Gaels in the second half, rallied for their first win over Shelton since 1994, and delivered a shock to both The Day’s coaches and GameTimeCT media polls.

    Jeffrey Karavas ran 21 times for 103 yards and a touchdown and threw a 15-yard touchdown pass for the Nighthawks while Adam Pandolfi added 13 carries for 110 yards, scored and had nine tackles. Pandolfi teamed with Jake McCreven on one of those tackles for the game-winning stop on fourth down with the Gaels at the NoHaven 5-yard line with under a minute left.

    Camren Thompson also had nine tackles, including a sack, for the Nighthawks.

    Michael Kinik completed 22 of 24 passes for 209 yards for Shelton and Ricky Feola had nine catches for 134 yards. Ryan Heinz also had 11 tackles, including a sack.

    You’ll see the ramifications of this game later when we get to this week’s Top 10 polls.

    Staples 36, No. 9 Trumbull 29

    Tyler Clark caught a go-ahead 70-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Smith with 1:12 left in the game for the Eagles.

    (Is it our imagination or does the FCIAC lead the state in high-scoring, madcap games straight out of the Big 12?)

    Smith completed 12 of 17 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns and ran 13 times for 39 yards and a score for the WRECKERS while Clark had six catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns and caught a 2-point conversion pass from Smith. Zach Roseme added 12 tackles and Sam Petrosino had seven tackles and an interception.

    Rowan Johnston ran (blinks at stats posted at MaxPreps) FOURTY FIVE times for 228 yards and three touchdowns and caught a 15-yard touchdown pass for the Eagles. Hunter Agosti completed 11 of 22 passes for 122 yards with a touchdown and interception and Jordan Black added eight tackles.

    Berlin 37, Bloomfield 34

    Josh Grimm nailed a game-winning 35-yard field goal at with two seconds left as the Redcoats rallied from two 14-point deficits for the win.

    The Warhawks led 14-0 in the second quarter and 34-20 with over nine minutes remaining in the game.

    Lorenzo Miele completed 12 of 20 passes for 181 yards with a TD and INT and scored on two 1-yard runs for Berlin and Josh Clement had 14 carries for 87 yards and a score. Kyle Melville added a 1-yard touchdown run and caught a 20-yard touchdown pass and Will Gomes had 13 tackles.

    Note that it was the Redcoats’ second-straight battle in as many weeks. It held off Fitch for a 29-23 road win on Sept. 23.

    Davien Kerr scored on a 62-yard punt return and catches of 53 and 33 yards for Bloomfield, which is dealing with the death of assistant Kevin Moses. Moses, who also coached the Warhawks’ boys’ basketball team to a state title last March, died last Monday from colon cancer. He was 56.

    There are no words.

    It doesn’t matter in life’s overall picture, but it was the second straight week that Bloomfield endured a rough loss. It led sixth-ranked Killingly by 14 points in the second quarter and 15 points in the third but lost, 28-22, on Sept. 23.

    Hamden 42, Fairfield Prep 27

    We didn’t know what to make of Hamden after it mashed its first three opponents, who had a combined record of 2-10.

    Whelp, the Green Dragons have made believers out of us after taking down one of the state’s large school heavyweights and taking it down hard. Hamden led 35-14 after three quarters and beat the Jesuits for the first time since 2009.

    J.J. Gibson completed 9 of 12 passes for 207 yards and four touchdowns for the Green Dragons and Camren Kemp was a workhorse (31 carries, 214 yards, two TDs). Curtis McCray and Tavian Moore each added 10 tackles, including a sack.

    It’s worth mentioning that Hamden did far more damage to Prep than No. 3 New Canaan had done a week earlier. The Jesuits had a 155-93 edge in offensive yardage and held the Rams to six first downs but lost, 14-7, on Sept. 23.

    Note, too, that the Green Dragons are under the management of Tom Dyer, who previously coached Hillhouse to two state championships.

    Tyler Smith completed 23 of 35 passes for 306 yards and two scores for the Jesuits while Wally Wuchiski added 12 carries for 118 yards and a TD and Tanner Langis had 12 tackles.

    • • • •

    This deserved a note all of its own — RHAM’s Max Nylen absolutely smashed in last Saturday’s 69-39 thrashing of Farmington.

    Nylen ran 27 times for THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE YARDS and SEVEN TOUCHDOWNS. He also caught a 29-yard touchdown pass.

    (SIDEBAR — Nylen single-handedly scored just 18.1 points less than our entire fantasy foot balls team had this weekend, which tells you what kind of shape it’s in).

    Nylen’s eight touchdowns puts him in seven-way tie for the third most in a game, according to the Connecticut High School Football Record Book. Zach Davis had a state-record 10 touchdowns for Sheehan in a game against Law on Oct. 28, 2016. Brenden Lytton is second as he scored nine for Torrington against Wilby on Oct. 29, 2010.

    (Five of the top nine highest single-game touchdown records were all set between Oct. 22-29. That’s. …. random and wacky.)

    Michael Marques added 18 carries for 185 yards and two scores for the Raptors in Saturday’s win and had a team-high 10 tackles.

    • • • •

    BEHOLD, The Day of New London Top 10 state coaches' poll: 1. Southington (five first-place votes); 2. New Canaan (4-0, three first-place votes); 3. Maloney (4-0, two first-place votes); 4. St. Joseph (4-0, two first-place votes); 5. West Haven (4-0, one first-place vote); 6. Killingly (4-0); 7. Greenwich (3-1); 8. North Haven; 9. Shelton; 10. Hamden.

    • • • •

    The GameTimeCT.com/Hearst Monolith Top 10 media poll: 1. Southington (16 first-place votes); 2. New Canaan (five first-place votes); 3. Maloney; 4. Killingly (3); 5. Greenwich; 6. St. Joseph; 7. West Haven; 8. Ansonia; 9. Shelton; 10. Cheshire.

    North Haven and Hamden are ranked 13th and 14th, respectively.

    Ansonia is 11th in the coaches’ poll and Cheshire No. 12 in the coaches’ poll.

    • • • •

    Ned Freeman’s cold, calculating computer rankings for CalPreps and MaxPreps: 1. St. Joseph; 2. West Haven; 3. Southington; 4. Maloney; 5. North Haven; 6. Cheshire (4-0); 7. Notre Dame-West Haven (3-1); 8. New Canaan; 9. Killingly; 10. Shelton.

    Greenwich is No. 11 and Hamden No. 14 and Ansonia No. 32.

    Cheshire is 11th in the coaches’ poll and ND-West Haven is No. 17

    ND-West Haven No. 20 in the media poll.

    Simsbury (1-3) is the current holder of the state’s toughest schedule. It’s lost to three Top 10 teams — Southington (37-9), Maloney (35-13) and North Haven (49-0). EGAD.

    • • • •

    Dig the ballot Polecat HQ filed for the GameTimeCT/Hearst monolith media poll:

    1. Southington

    2. Greenwich

    3. St. Joseph

    4. Maloney

    5. West Haven

    6. Hamden

    7. New Canaan

    8. Killingly

    9. Notre Dame (West Haven variant)

    10. North Haven

    11. Shelton

    12. Staples

    13. Newtown

    14. Naugatuck

    15. Berlin

    • • • •

    Thanks for reading.

    More soon.


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