From a distant glance, two teams that might be a bit of a mirror image meet Tuesday in the CIAC Class LL football quarterfinals at Southington’s Fontana Field.
Two storied programs, three championships apiece. Two heralded offenses with a lot of weapons. Two defenses that might be underappreciated.
“Defensively, we’re not really as concerned with the hype, the media,” said Fairfield Prep senior defensive back and wide receiver Peter Kavanaugh, whose fifth-seeded Jesuits visit fourth-seeded Southington on Tuesday night. “We know where we are. We put in the work every day.”
The Jesuits’ defense has held teams to an average of just under 11 points in 10 games, going 9-1. They held No. 3 Shelton, the top seed in LL and a possible semifinal opponent for Tuesday’s victor, to 10 points, the Gaels’ lowest output this year.
And the offense has put up at least 23 points in every game except that 10-7 loss to Shelton on Sept. 21.
“I think it’s the overall energy” that makes Prep’s offense click, senior lineman Campbell Halloran said.
“One of our players, Jack Scholl, has a saying, ‘everybody eats.’ We’re here to get everyone a score. Finn (Duran, who has 14 touchdown receptions from junior quarterback J.P. Iaropoli) and Doug (Harrison, who has 14 touchdowns on the ground) are the ones always in the paper, but we have a lot of kids on our team that can score, weapons on offense.”
And that sounds familiar: No. 6 Southington scored at least 21 points in all 10 regular-season games, all of them wins. The Blue Knights allowed just over 11 points a game; like Fairfield Prep, they recorded two shutouts.
Four wide receivers (three of them 6-foot-2, the other 6-0) have caught at least four touchdown passes from quarterback Jacob Drena, who has thrown 28 in all. And running back Tanner LaRosa has reached the end zone 13 times.
“(In balance), running the ball and throwing the ball effectively, that’s what we like to do,” Southington coach Mike Drury said. “When that’s clicking, that’s what we’re looking to do.”
The Jesuits made the playoffs last year for the first time since losing to Southington in the 2013 Class LL championship, before any current Jesuits or Blue Knights players arrived.
The team they squeezed out by 20 points for the last playoff spot: Southington, which sat out the postseason for the first time since 2011, a run that included two Class LL titles.
“We’re just about where we want to be at this point of the season,” Drury said. “In the playoffs, undefeated, it’s a great accomplishment.
“I think the guys are playing well, playing tough. We’ll go out and play each game as it comes.”
Drury sees in the Jesuits a disciplined, physical team with weapons that can make an opponent pay.
Kavanaugh, in the Blue Knights, noted that corps of big wide receivers.
“They run after the catch. They go up and get the ball,” he said. “Our defensive backs have a challenge in front of us, but we’re ready for it.”
Halloran said he expects a good game.
“The game’s going to come down to who plays harder. I’m obviously going to put my money on our team.
“We’re a different team when it comes to playoffs. It’s win or stop. You have to finish every play.”