SOUTHINGTON>> It’s a rivalry that has grown in recent years between two of the more successful teams in the CCC: Southington, the defending Class LL state champion, and Glastonbury consistently a playoff contender.
The Tomahawks always seem to play the Blue Knights tough, and in the first half of Saturday’s state semifinal game, this one was much of the same.
It wasn’t until after the break when Southington’s Vance Upham took control en route to a 42-14 victory in the Class LL-Large semifinal at Fontana Field on a cold and very wet Saturday.
Upham rushed 16 times for 104 yards and three touchdowns to send the Blue Knights back to the state championship game for the second straight year.
Southington will play Norwich Free Academy on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium in New Britain at 6 p.m.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Southington’s Matt Maxwell said of returning to the state championship game. “We just have to work hard all week and hope for the best on Saturday.”
The driving rain forced the usual high-flying Southington offense to be a bit more conservative on the ground. Jasen Rose still completed 15 of 27 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown to Matt Maxwell which tied the score at 7-7 as time expired in the first quarter.
“Jasen through a great ball and Maxwell went up to get it,” Southington coach Mike Drury said. “He’s so great going to get the football. That was a big play.”
The score came two plays after a Glastonbury muffed a punt, giving the Blue Knights great field position.
“If you turn the ball over to them, they’re going to take advantage of it,” Glastonbury coach Scott Daniels said. “We can’t afford to do that.”
Glastonbury, however, took advantage of the first turnover in the game. Rose fumbled a snap which led to Keyion Dixon’s 22-yard touchdown run.
After that the Tomahawks struggled to really get anything going offensively. Dixon went 0 for 5 passing with two interceptions, both by Maxwell.
“Their team speed is above average and it showed, they got to the ball,” Daniels said. “Teams that don’t match up speed-wise with us, we can exploit those teams. Today we struggled with that.”
The two-headed monster of Alessio Diana and Upham began to click for Southington midway through the second quarter. Diana ran in from 10 yards to give Southington a 14-7 lead and the No. 1 team in the state didn’t look back.
Dixon had a chance to tie the game when he broke a 53 yard run down the right sideline, but it was called back after a holding call.
After the break, Upham handled a majority of the carries. He scored on runs of 5, 8 and 9-yards out to put the Blue Knights in control.
“Vance is a workhorse,” Drury said. “He’s stepped up. The first part of the year he was only playing offense and we really needed him to come over to the defensive side of the ball. So he’s done a great job doing that these past few weeks. He runs with force, he runs hard and he’s got great vision and the line did a great job blocking for him.
“As you get in the flow of the game and just get the feel of it. If you talk to any of the great running backs, they say they get into the feel of the game, they see what’s there, see the holes better, just get into a groove. That’s what he got into.”
Dixon got to the end zone one more time with 3:56 left in the third. Rose scored on a 4-yard run with 8:40 left in the game.
Southington 42, Glastonbury 14
Glastonbury — 7 0 7 0 — 14
Southington — 7 7 14 14 — 42
G-Keyion Dixon 22 run (Nick Hobert kick)
S-Matt Maxwell 8 pass from Jasen Rose (Daniel Parzych kick)
S-Alessio Diana 10 run (Parzych kick)
S-Vance Upham 5 run (Parzych kick)
G-Dixon 8 run (Hobert kick)
S-Upham 8 run (Parzych kick)
S-Rose 4 run (Parzych kick)
S-Upham 9 run (Parzych kick)
Team records — Glastonbury 8-4, Southington 11-0