Ok, itâ€™s been more than enough time to absorb the Southington loss to Fairfield Prep in the first round of the CIAC football tournament.
Ironically, last week marked the anniversary of Southingtonâ€™s first football state title in 1998 over Norwich Free Academy. That victory was satisfying since SHS would suffer a couple of devastating losses to Darien High from the tough Southern Connecticut Conference several years ago.
The Blue Knights would struggle beyond our borders in spite of annual titles in the Central Connecticut Conference that embellishes schools like South Windsor, Enfield, Manchester, Hall, Conard, East Hartford, Glastonbury and New Britain. The departed schools of Rockville, Newington and Windsor no longer sit in Southingtonâ€™s cross-hairs.
Yet, the Blue Knights remain the fourth winningest football program in Connecticut. If the stateâ€™s winningest school, New Britain, didnâ€™t begin football when George Washington was president, Southington would bypass them and even Hillhouse and Ansonia.
However, it is a fact that schools like Darien, Hand, Saint Josephâ€™s, Greenwich, Staples, New Canaan, Ridgefield and even Fairfield Prep, have regularly dominated the state playoffs. Locals have become used to winning and rightly so, but the fact is that the CCC is a weak conference. Although occasionally, schools like Glastonbury, East Hartford and New Britain will rise to a degree of prominence, none seem to return winning teams. Unlike Southingtonâ€™s program of great coaching, training and community support, the other CCC schools are never consistent.
Although Southington has beaten the SCCâ€™s Cheshire seven years in a row, our neighbors to the north no longer are the standard bearers of strong southern football. Why do schools like Darien, Greenwich and New Canaan maintain such winning records as opposed to the rest of the state?
I asked the athletic director of Cheshire, a well informed football guru and brother of Darienâ€™s head coach. Steve Trifone understands Southingtonâ€™s imposing problem. How can it compete against SCC teams other than Cheshire?
â€śPeople have to understand Southington is a very good program, always well coached. Unfortunately they have to play the best team in the state for the first round in years 2015, 2016 and did not make the playoffs in 2017. The Fairfield Prep game could have went either way. I believe Southington would be very competitive with most schools in other leagues such as the SCC and the FCIAC. The leagues are looking to do some crossovers so Southington will get opportunities to play some of these schools,â€ť said Trifone.
Gregg Ferry, athletic director at SHS, repeated what Iâ€™ve been told about the truly outstanding training procedures at the southern schools. Ferry is a Cheshire High graduate and played football for the Rams.
â€śSouthington does not have a state of the art strength and conditioning or up to date training facility like many teams of the SCC or FCIAC. Also, Southington does not have a full-time or part-time strength and conditioning coach like those schools. Our conference, the CCC, will, however, be joining an alliance with other conferences in the state to add a game with an out-of-town opponent starting in 2019.â€ť
In summarizing the comments of both athletic directors, itâ€™s obvious that Southington, in spite of the spirited football program, is not yet comparable to those teams but we should expect the schedule next season to include a top-ranked opponent.
The scores of the recent football playoffs is a clear example of what all this is about. Berlin loses 70-18 by St. Josephâ€™s of Trumbull, Hand of Madison scores 54 points for a state title, Greenwich shut out a tough New Canaan but Bloomfield snaps the streak by dumping Haddam-Killingworth. And, Greenwich easily eliminated a strong New Britain team days prior.