CHESHIRE – The Southington Blue Knights (9-1) pulled ahead early, but a few bounces in favor of the Cheshire Rams (6-4) tightened things up in the fourth quarter before the Knights ran away with a 21-14 win on Thanksgiving.
The Blue Knights bookended the first half with the only two touchdowns through the opening 24 minutes of action; the first of which was set up by a 15-yard rush from senior running back Lincoln Cardillo to the Cheshire 5-yard line. Cardillo finished the job two plays later with a four-yard rush for the score. A blocked extra point kept the score at 6-0.
Southington was threatening at the first quarter break with a 48-yard throw and catch from C.J. DiBenedetto to Jared Ierardi. The catch set the Knights up deep in Ram territory to start the second quarter. DiBenedetto was intercepted by Cheshire’s Mike Simeone just a few plays later to stall the drive.
The teams traded possessions until Southington took back over for the final three minutes of the half. DiBenedetto found Rashard Williams up the left sideline for a 25-yard touchdown catch to cushion their lead.
The Knights went for two points to make up for the blocked extra point on their first score.
With no receivers open, DiBenedetto improvised and found Cardillo on a shovel pass for the conversion. Southington took the 14-0 lead into the locker room for halftime.
The second half began with three punts before the Knights were able to tack onto their lead. Southington’s Derek Chiulli forced the third-straight punt with a third-down sack.
Southington took over at the 20-yard line before Williams broke loose up the left sideline on what looked like a sure touchdown. He had nobody to beat before he stepped out of bounds at the Cheshire 28-yard line. Cardillo cashed in on another score on the next play with a catch across the middle of the field.
The Rams were able to scratch their first point across early in the fourth quarter. A 13-yard pass to Matthew Jeffery set up Cheshire inside the Southington 5-yard line. Jeffery finished the job three plays later with a 3-yard rush for the score.
The field began to tilt in Cheshire’s favor after they recovered an onside kick to set things up around midfield. They found themselves in a fourth-and-1 from the 4-yard line and Jeffery took care of the rest, scoring to cut the deficit to a single score with four minutes to play.
Another Southington punt gave the Rams even more life. However, Rashard Williams silenced the Thanksgiving Day crowd with an interception with two minutes to play in the game. Southington was able to run down the clock and escape Cheshire with their ninth victory of the season.
“The biggest takeaway from today is that we need to finish strong,” explained Cardillo. “It got away from us a little toward the end and we won’t be able to accommodate that in the playoffs. We need to finish the game just as fast as we start.”
Southington will host a Class LL Quarterfinal game on Tuesday.