CHESHIRE — One of the state’s most contentious Thanksgiving Day rivalries, between a pair of playoff-bound teams, more than lived up to its billing on Thursday at Alumni Field.
Southington snuffed Cheshire quarterback Jason Shumilla’s quarterback sneak on a two-point conversion attempt in double overtime to give the Blue Knights a 21-20 victory in the Apple Valley Classic.
The scored was tied 7-7 at the end of regulation and went into overtime for the first time in the rivalry’s 32-year history. After the teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime — where each team begins possession on the opponent’s 10-yard line — Southington’s Brady Lafferty hit Shane LaPorte on a 4-yard scoring completion to put Southington up 21-14.
Here’s what Southington’s 21-20 2OT victory over Cheshire in the Apple Valley Classic looked like.
Came down to 1 play and 1 1/2 yard.
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) November 28, 2019
Cheshire countered with a scoring pass from Shumilla to Nick DiDomizio. Jotham Casey’s extra-point was off the mark, but Southington had jumped off sides, and the penalty moved the ball half the distance to the goal line, to the 1 ½-yard line. Cheshire coach Don Drust elected to go for the win with a two-point conversion attempt.
“I’m confident in our guys, in our ability to get 1 1/2 yards,” said Drust. “I wouldn’t change that decision.”
But Shumilla, who had scored on a sneak in the second quarter, couldn’t break the goal line this time.
“We had faith in the guys upfront, the guys behind me to get the 1 1/2 yards,” the senior signal-caller said. “It was definitely unanimous.”
“There was no reason not to,” added Drust. “It’s what we wanted to do, the guys wanted to do, we wanted to do. Everybody was in agreement — try to go win the game. We’re confident in the guys, confident in ourselves. I wouldn’t change the decision at all.”
Southington coach Mike Drury wasn’t about to question Drust’s call.
View this post on Instagram
“It’s a game of emotions,” Drury noted. “Maybe I’d do the same thing if I was in that situation. We made a personnel change and our defense did what we’ve been doing all year — making the big plays when it matters.”
Southington (9-1), rankled seventh in the GameTimeCT poll, has now won the annual rivalry eight straight years. The Blue Knights will be the No. 2 seed in the Class LL playoffs and host Ridgefield next week.
No. 9 Cheshire dipped to 8-2 and will play at Simsbury as Class LL’s No. 5 seed next week.
Southington’s Dillon Kohl scored on a 24-yard run for the game’s first touchdown early in the second quarter. It was the first time Cheshire trailed in a game since an Oct. 4 bout with Shelton, but it didn’t last long. About two minutes later, Shumilla scored on a 1-yard keeper — set up by Jake McAlinden’s 56-yard run — to tie the game.’
And that would be it for scoring the rest of regulation.
Both teams turned the ball over inside their opponents’ 10-yard line. Both teams got strong performances from their lead backs — Kohl rushed for 141 yards on 29 carries; McAlinden gained 120 yards on 18 handles. Southington’s Josh Vitti had nine catches (eight in the second half) for 117 yards.
Most of all, both teams turned in a performance that will go down in the annals of this long rivalry as one of its best.
“That’s what high school football is all about,” said Drury. “A great rivalry between these two communities. It’s heated out there, because all these guys care about it. I thought our guys responded well to the ebb and flow of the game.”
Added Drust: “I couldn’t be prouder of my guys, couldn’t be prouder of the effort, couldn’t be prouder of how hard they played.”
SOUTHINGTON 21, CHESHIRE 20
SOUTHINGTON 0 7 0 0 14 — 21
CHESHIRE 0 7 0 0 13 — 20
S — Dillon Kohl 24 run (Jack Barnum kick)
C — Jason Shumilla 1 run (Jotham Casey kick)
C — Jake McAlnden 10 run (Casey kick)
S — Kohl 5 run (Barnum kick)
Records: Southington 9-1, Cheshire 8-2