No matter how the season has gone, good or bad, beating a rival at the end of the year is always one of the most important goals.
Both Southington’s Matt Thompson and Nikki Carter played big roles in helping their teams do exactly that last week.
It was a bittersweet end to the season for the Southington football team. The Blue Knights missed the Class LL playoffs for the first time since 2011 due to points after wins by Fairfield Prep and Sheehan earlier on Thanksgiving Day, but Southington did more than its part.
The Blue Knights came away with their sixth straight Apple Valley Classic win over Cheshire on Thursday, beating the Rams 30-22, in large part thanks to their defensive effort.
“I think our defense did a great job,” Southington head coach Mike Drury said. “There were some penalties on both sides, but I thought our defense did a great job of shutting down the run for the most part. They got a couple of big plays on us, but they responded on them.”
The Blue Knights responded by intercepting Cheshire quarterback Jack Raba three times. Thompson came up with the second pick and returned it 25 yards for what would be the deciding score with 2:30 left in the third quarter.
“My job was to read both the tight ends based on the running back and I hear the pop-pass alert,” said Thompson, breaking down his interception. “We scouted them a lot and knew they like to run a pop-pass. I’m reading the quarterback’s eyes to where he’s looking and he throws the ball and one of [our] seniors, Jack Terray, swipes one of the Rams’ player’s arms down and I was just ready to tackle him and it just fell right into my arms. Right from that moment, I knew I needed to get into the end zone. Great block by Sam Thomson on the outside and I made a good move and found the corner of the end zone.”
The junior also had six total tackles and two pass break ups to earn himself defensive MVP honors for Southington. But Thompson was also quick to praise his teammates that helped prepare him and the rest of the defense to be successful.
“You have to give a lot of credit to the younger guys on the team,” Thompson said of the defensive performance. “Every day we go into practice, they’re running the scout O, they’re running real hard, diving for balls. It’s almost like a game scenario and it gets us prepared. It’s what enables us to perform like we did [Thursday].”
Carter also delivered a memorable performance, helping the Southington powder puff football team reach a couple of milestones along the way.
The Blue Knights had never beaten rival New Britain in their annual game at Veterans Stadium and never beaten the Hurricanes in back-to-back seasons, that was before last Wednesday night.
“It was definitely a big win for us,” Carter said. “We practiced so hard. We just practiced for hours every Saturday and everyone would come prepared and gave their all. We came together as a team.”
Southington shut out New Britain 20-0 with Carter leading the way on offense, scoring two rushing touchdowns - the first from three yards out in the second quarter with the second coming in the third quarter on a 15-yard run. She finished with just three carries, but the final two, turned out to be two of the most important.
“Once you see the end zone, you just go for it,” Carter said. “You don’t realize how close it is, you just run for it. But I was not expecting to score two touchdowns tonight. Once you get adrenaline, you kind of forget about everything else’s that’s going on.”
A soccer player during the fall season, the Blue Knights utilized Carter’s speed to outmaneuver the Hurricanes’ defense. And most often than not, New Britain simply didn’t have an answer for the senior once Southington got into the red zone.
“You hide [Carter] behind a big line and next thing you know, if you get that misdirection handoff done, all of a sudden - there she goes,” Blue Knights head coach Charles Kemp said. “This year, we had a lot of soccer players and they’re awesome. All the kids are awesome, but I think we had about 10 soccer players and it’s like ‘pick your poison.’”
And Carter certainly provided plenty of mismatches and headaches for New Britain on Wednesday.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach