SOUTHINGTON - Kyle Messenger, Billy Carr and Angelo Plantamuro know they have some big roles to fill. At the same time, they aren’t lacking in confidence.
“I think we bring that juice to the defense,” Plantamuro said.
The Southington football team, particularly the defense, will need them to.
With the Blue Knights in the midst of a defensive overhaul, having to replace eight of 11 starters, the trio have become the faces of the unit, taking over a linebacking corps that featured the likes of Ryan Montalvo, Ian Hall and Joe Koczera in 2017.
“Replacing three linebackers is going to be tough,” Southington head coach Mike Drury said. “We had three All-State caliber linebackers [last season] and these guys have really stepped up in those roles. The idea is you know what’s expected.”
Expectations for Messenger, Carr and Plantamuro are high. Southington allowed just 133 points (13.3 per game) last season with Montalvo, Hall and Koczera as some key reasons why. The three combined for 1/3 of the Knights’ total tackles (218 of 659) and 16 of 39 sacks.
Both Messenger and Carr were able to get some varsity experience last season. Messenger appeared in nine games as a junior, recording 23 tackles. As a sophomore, Carr finished with 11. Plantamuro, now a junior, was the only one not to appear.
“Those guys last year were leaders,” Carr said of Montalvo, Hall and Koczera. “Those three were some of the best in the state. They were teachers and helped make us who we are. What they did and taught us last year helped make us even better.”
The new group isn’t shying away from those expectations either. Numbers aside, their speed and aggression have been highlights during camp and the work they’ve done this offseason has people confident of the transition.
“We’ve been working tremendously hard and pushing as hard as we can,” Messenger said. “We all have the heart in us. No matter how big the other guy is, we’re going to come at you 100 percent. If we do, we know the good that will happen and how it’ll help lead the defense to some good things.”
Still, all three know it will be the results on the field that matter. They also believe they have the skill sets to produce those results with Plantamuro being designated as the sideline-to-sideline linebacker with Messenger and Carr capable of plugging up the middle when needed. After all, they said, every good offense needs a good defense.
“We’re looking to set our offense up for good field position and to limit scores as much as we can,” Messenger said. “If we do that and listen to our coaches and fly to the football, we will not have a problem with any offense this year, bottom line.”
“We’re looking for three and outs and see how many of those we get,” Carr added. “If we get those and get the other team off the field, we win.”
Opponents will certainly be looking to test that, but Messenger, Carr and Plantamuro are confident they can deliver.
“We’re not backing down from any offense,” Plantamuro said. “We’re looking to strike some fear into the other team.”