WEST HAVEN >> There’s a reason why football games are four quarters, and often the final one is usually the most pivotal.
That was the case for fourth-seeded Southington against No. 7 Fairfield Prep in the Class LL state championship game.
The Blue Knights trailed the Jesuits by two touchdowns at halftime, but an inspired defensive effort in the second half lifted Southington to its first state title since 1998.
The Blue Knights scored 24 points in the fourth quarter and went on to earn a 52-34 comeback victory Thursday at Ken Strong Stadium.
Southington (12-1), making its first trip to the final since 1999, won its second title. The Blue Knights are now 2-7 in state championship games.
“It’s been 15 years,” Southington senior Zach Maxwell said. “This is the most unbelievable feeling to bring this back, and knowing the whole community was behind us.”
Maxwell, who finished with eight tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, was part of a swarming Blue Knights defense, which limited Fairfield Prep (11-3) to just six points in the second half after trailing 28-14 at halftime.
“We made a couple of adjusts offensively and defensively, like we always do,” Southington coach Mike Drury said. “Defensively those ones really helped. We talked to the staff; defensive coordinator, Rob Thomson, made a little adjustment, and it was fantastic. We just told the kids ‘hey, we’re right in this game’. Champions are made when you bounce back, and when you’re down, and how you react when you’re down a little bit. The kids reacted, they responded, and they came out and played a great second half.”
The Southington defense forced Fairfield Prep to punt on the Jesuits’ first possession of the third quarter. This led to a 60-yard touchdown pass from senior Stephen Barmore to junior Alex Jamele to cut the Fairfield Prep lead to 28-21. After forcing another punt, Barmore and Jamele connected again, this time on a 4-yard touchdown pass. Kyle Smick’s point after kick tied the game at 28.
Smick then kicked a 21-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to put his team up 31-28. The lead was short lived, however, as Fairfield Prep senior Nick Crowle scored on a 7-yard run to temporarily put the Jesuits up 34-31. On the next possession, Jasen Rose caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Barmore to put Southington up for good, 38-34, with 8:11 remaining.
Barmore completed 22 of 33 passes for 346 yards. All four of his touchdown passes came in the second half. Jamele caught 10 passes for 230 yards and three scores.
“More a case of not getting the job done,” Fairfield Prep coach Tom Shea said about his team’s defensive struggles in the second half. “They might have had some people hitting some different gaps, but we didn’t block them. Every time it’s a bunch of one-on-one plays. We didn’t win as many as we should of.”
Colton Smith scored on touchdown runs of 17 and 2 yards in the first quarter. In between, Southington’s Tyler Hyde scored on a 2-yard run, but Fairfield Prep led 14-7 after one quarter. The Jesuits then took a 21-7 lead on Crowle’s 53-yard run in the second quarter.
Southington responded on a 1-yard touchdown run by Barmore, but Smith connected with junior John DelliSanti on a 31-yard touchdown to put Fairfield Prep up by 14 at the break.
Jamele caught a 20-yard touchdown from Barmore in the fourth quarter. Barmore made two interceptions, including one he returned 67 yards, late in the final stanza. Matthew Koczera led Southington with 12 tackles, while Zach Jamele made 10 tackles and an interception. Matthew Thomson also made an interception for the Blue Knights.
“We went into the locker room with our heads held high,” Maxwell said. “We knew that we had to continue to play assignment football. That’s really all there was to it.”
|Score by Quarters||1||2||3||4||Score|
F — Colton Smith 17 yd run (Henry Healy kick)
S-Tyler Hyde 2 yd run (Kyle Smick kick)
FP –Colton Smith 2 yd run (Henry Healy kick)
FP — Nicholas Crowle 53 yd run (Henry Healy kick)
S–Stephen Barmore 1 yd run (Kyle Smick kick)
FP–John DelliSanti 31 yd pass from Colton Smith (Henry Healy kick)
S–Alexander Jamele 60 yd pass from Stephen Barmore (Kyle Smick kick)
S–Alexander Jamele 4 yd pass from Stephen Barmore (Kyle Smick kick)
FP –Nicholas Crowle 7 yd run (Henry Healy kick failed)
S–Kyle Smick 21 yd field goal 8-75 2:14 31 – 28
S–Jasen Rose 7 yd pass from Stephen Barmore (Kyle Smick kick)
S–Alexander Jamele 20 yd pass from Stephen Barmore (Kyle Smick kick)
S–Stephen Barmore 67 yd interception return (Kyle Smick kick)