EAST HARTFORD — With the cameras rolling and the tape recorders running, Southington defensive back Matt Thompson let the assembled media take a trip down memory lane, even if it was a place he never wants to visit again.
Not long after his three fourth-quarter interceptions keyed the visiting Blue Knights to a 42-27 victory over fellow CCC powerhouse East Hartford Friday night, Thompson calmly answered a string of questions. When the subject turned to how a couple of big plays in the pass game led the Hornets to a come from behind victory a year ago, Thompson quietly said, “I was a part of that.”
For almost a year, the nightmarish sequence of events engineered by East Hartford’s scintillating quarterback Raquan Tompkins that resulted in Southington’s first regular-season loss in four years left a bitter taste in the mouth of all the Southington defensive backs.
“We all wanted this game,” Thompson said. “We knew this was a game that we had something to prove. We practically lost us the game last year, this game meant a lot to the DBs. We really wanted to come out here and prove we are one of the best in the state and we can guard anybody.”
Actually, it was sixth-ranked East Hartford which came up with the first turnover in the showdown of top 10 teams as Quinton Haughton a forced third-down throw by Southington quarterback Jacob Drena on the game’s first offensive possession.
Houghton weaved his way to a 45-yard touchdown. Will Downes came up with a sack to short circuit the next Blue Knights drive. Then on East Hartford’s second offensive play, Tompkins’ sideline out was turned into a 62-yard touchdown reception by Jaquan Allen to put the Hornets up 14-0.
No. 8 Southington (7-0) answered as a 66-yard run by Tanner LaRosa set up his own 1-yard touchdown.
Tompkins helped the Hornets restore the two-touchdown advantage on a 6-yard run as he was met by two Southington defenders at the 3 and wiggled by to cap the scoring in a wild opening quarter.
The points and yards became harder to come by after that for East Hartford as Southington ripped off the next 28 points.
“We have to learn to stay on that gas pedal and not take our foot off the gas pedal,” East Hartford coach Rick Milton said. “I think maybe we got a little too relaxed after [going] up 14-0 and up 21-7.”
A 4-yard run by Dillon Kohl and a 16-yard pass from Drena to Jacob Flynn enabled Southington to tie the game at 21 shortly before halftime.
Drena and Flynn hooked up again as a busted coverage resulted in a wide open Flynn putting Southington in the lead for good with an 82-yard touchdown reception wth 23 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
East Hartford (6-1) was driving for the tying score before Thompson came up with the first of his interceptions. On the next play LaRosa, who ran for 214 yards, ripped off a 65-yard scoring run.
East Hartford answered on Tompkins needed just two completions, the final one a 44-yard touchdown to Jayden Gardner, to drive the Hornets 80 yards.
With the game’s outcome still very much up in the air, Thompson delivered again as his second interception was followed three plays later by Jamie Lamson leaking out of the backfield uncovered for a clinching 76-yard touchdown catch.
The game ended fittingly enough with Thompson completing the hat trick and recording his fifth interception of the season.
“I wanted to get the ball back for our offense,” Thompson said. “I think we have the best offense in the state, I go against them every single day in practice, I love the way they compete, I love the way they way they can get down the field, I love the way they can strike so fast.”
Thompson was aided on defense by the trio of John Miller (10 tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss), Angelo Plantamuro (10 tackles) and Billy Carr (nine tackles with a sack). Drena had 229 yards passing on just six completion.
Tompkins ran for 85 yards and passed for another 263 for the Hornets while Luis Cruz and Malik Bennett (who also had two sacks) led East Hartford with seven tackles each.
SOUTHINGTON 42, EAST HARTFORD 27
(at East Hartford)
Southington 7 14 7 14-42
East Hartford 21 0 0 6-27
E-Quinton Haughton 45 interception return (Gabriel Florian kick)
E-Jaquan Allen 62 pass from Raquan Tompkins (Florian kick)
S-Tanner LaRosa 1 run (Evan Johanns kick)
E-Tompkins 6 run (Florian kick)
S-Dillon Kohl 4 run (Johanns kick)
S-Jacob Flynn 16 pass from Jacob Drena (Johanns kick)
S-Flynn 82 pass from Drena (Johanns kick)
S-LaRosa 65 run (Johanns kick)
E-Jayden Gardner 44 pass from Tompkins (kick failed)
S-Jamie Lamson 76 pass from Drena (Johanns kick)
Records: S 7-0, E 6-1