CHESHIRE >> For one half, anyway, it looked like Southington’s trip to the Class LL playoffs could be in jeopardy.
But the Blue Knights overcame their own subpar play — and some strong defense by Cheshire — in the first half and rallied in the second to a 38-6 win over the Rams in the 18th Apple Valley Classic on Thanksgiving Day at Alumni Field.
Yale-bound quarterback Stephen Barmore completed 13 of 21 passes for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead Southington, which improved to 9-1 and clinched a spot in the Class LL field.
“It feels great coming out here and getting this win, with people who I think of as brothers,” said Barmore, who was named the game’s most outstanding player. “It’s really nice to go out on a high note with them by my side.”
Tyler Hyde rushed for a pair of touchdowns for Southington.
Cheshire finishes its season at 4-7. Southington now boasts a 14-12 all-time advantage in the series.
“All said and done, I thought our kids played really hard, especailly the first 2½, three quarters,” Rams coach Don Drust said. “Then we got behind, we tried to do some stuff on offense, and it just made it difficult for us to come back. They’re a good football team, I don’t want to take anything away from them.”
It didn’t take long for the Blue Knights to get on the scoreboard. A 36-yard return on the game’s opening kickoff by Matt Maxwell set up a 5-yard scoring run by Barmore three plays later. Neither team would score the remainder of the half.
Southington went up 14-0 on Hyde’s 25-yard run early in the second half. The Rams quickly countered on Jack Cunningham’s 58-yard scoring scamper, but the Blue Knights followed with a five-play scoring drive and never looked back.
“I thought we played well on defense in the first half,” Drust said. “We rallied to the ball. We gave them the ball in some good spots and we played hard on defense. Second half, we had some letdowns, a couple of wrong reads by linebackers.”
Cunningham finished with 86 yards rushing on 16 carries.
“For some reason, we have a hard time coming back from some adversity,” Drust added. “The second half of this game kind of sums that up for what our season was. That’s on me. That’s my job, to find a way to get my kids to respond. I’ll put that on my shoulders.”
Barmore is looking forward to beginning his career at Yale in the fall. But he’s got some business at hand first.
“One of the reasons I committed in the summer before the season is because I wanted to really focus on this season,” he said. “I really want to focus on winning the state championship, winning the next three games. But yes, I’m very excited to be in New Haven next fall.”
Southington 38, Cheshire 6
Southington 7 0 17 14 — 38
Cheshire 0 0 6 0 — 6
S—Stephen Barmore 5 run (Kyle Smick kick)
S—Tyler Hyde 24 run (Smick kick)
C—Jack Cunningham 42 run (kick failed)
S—Tyler Hyde 3 run (Smick kick)
S—Kyle Smick 28 FG
S—Jasen Rose 3 pass from Stephen Barmore (Smick kick)
S—Alex Jamele 25 pass from Stephen Barmore (Smick kick)
Team records: Cheshire 4-7; Southington 9-1