- Where/When — Veterans Stadium, New Britain, Saturday, 6 p.m.
- Seeds/Records — No. 1 Southington 11-0; No. 2 Norwich Free Academy 8-2
- On the Air — NFHS Network | CPTV Sports | WJJF 94.9-FM
- Live stats — GameTracker
- Tickets — $10
- Players to watch — NFA: QB Jawaun Johnson; RB Khaleed Exum-Strong. Southington: QB Jasen Rose, RB Alession Dianan; WR Alex Jamele, WR Matt Maxwell, WR Kyle Borawski, WR Austin Morin.
- Championship History — Norwich Free Academy (0-2) — Titles: None. Runner-up: 2012 (LL: lost 48-14 to Xavier); 1998 (LL: lost 54-26 to Southington). Southington (2-5) — Titles: 2013 (LL: 52-34 over Fairfield Prep); 1998 (LL: 54-26 over Norwich Free Academy). Runner-up: 2006 (LL: lost 28-7 to Greenwich); 2005 (LL: lost 45-30 to Xavier); 1999 (LL: lost 47-27 to Greenwich); 1994 (LL: lost 22-7 to Hartford Public); 1984 (L-I: lost 23-17 to Glastonbury).
You should know
Southington is the defending Class LL champion and has been the consensus No. 1 team in the New Haven Register/GameTimeCT poll all season. After a close 41-38 win over Glastonbury to open the season, the Blue Knights ripped through their Central Connecticut Conference schedule, then hammered Cheshire of the Southern Connecticut Conference 44-7 and beat up Glastonbury 42-14 in the semifinal round of the playoffs. …Norwich Free Academy, which lost to Southington 52-14 in the Class LL quarterfinal round last season, got off to a slow start and was just 2-2 following a 24-0 loss to Glastonbury and a 27-24 loss to Griswold in the Eastern Connecticut Conference. But since then the Wildcats have ripped off six wins in a row, including a 63-40 Thanksgiving Day win over New London in America’s oldest football rivalry and a 30-6 playoff win over New Britain.
NFA is largely a two-man show, offensively. Sophomore dual-threat quarterback Jawaun Johnson (1,477 yards rushing) and running back Khaleed Exum-Strong (2,085 yards) lead the way. In the win over New Britain, Johnson carried the ball 23 times for 170 yards and Exum-Strong had 168 yards on 31 carries. The rest of the team combined for a minus 21 yards on nine plays.
Southington is led by junior quarterback Jasen Rose (194-for-278, 2,842 yards, 42 touchdowns). He has a quartet of receivers, Alex Jamele (69 catches 906 yards), Matt Maxwell (43-703), Kyle Borawski (42-621) and Austin Morin (34-552).
The Knights also move the ball on the ground as junior Alessio Diana has 1,037 yards on 145 carries and sophomore Vance Upham has 846 yards on 106 carries.
Not since the Week 1 41-38 victory over Glastonbury has Southington been challenged late in a game. The defending champions have walloped their competition since with an array of weapons, an up-tempo offensive philosophy and a smothering defensive unit that’s been overshadowed, but shouldn’t be overlooked. NFA has only found a groove recently with the emergence of Johnson as a runner. But Southington has feasted on opposing offenses this year, especially those that tend to be one-dimensional. Unless NFA can keep the Knights honest with a pass game, expect Southington to load the box with its exceptional front seven and dare the Wildcats to run. NFA’s ability to keep up with Rose and the offense will determine the outcome of this one.
–with Sean Patrick Bowley
Bransfield’s Pick: Southington.
Pooch’s Pick: Southington.
SPB’s Pick: Southington 47-20
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