SOUTHINGTON - Jacob Drena couldn‚Äôt have drawn up a better way to silence any doubts about him.
Despite having never started a game heading into the season opener against Glastonbury, the senior quarterback for the Southington football team played like a veteran in the 41-7 rout. For the most part, Drena looked poised, calm and in charge.
‚ÄúI was probably the most excited I have ever been to play a football game,‚ÄĚ Drena said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve been dreaming about this stuff since I was in third grade. I loved playing the three years before, behind [last season‚Äôs starter] Will [Barmore] and stuff. [Friday] was just a great feeling seeing everyone in the crowd, knowing you have the town on your back. This is a huge football town. So [being the] starting quarterback of a huge football town, you have a little bit of pressure.‚ÄĚ
Even with the end result, that pressure did seem to get to Drena early on. His first throw of the game was a lazy pass intercepted by Glastonbury at midfield.
As early as it was, it was a defining moment in the quarterback‚Äôs season, one he may not have bounced back from without the help of his team.
‚ÄúThe team chemistry is what kept me up because if everyone was down on me, I wouldn‚Äôt want to continue the game,‚ÄĚ Drena said. ‚ÄúSo it was awesome. It was a good feeling.‚ÄĚ
The senior responded in a big way, delivering a dominating performance with 356 yards passing and five touchdowns. But after the game, Drena accepted little credit, instead shining a spotlight on the effort his receivers gave.
Jacob Flynn caught five passes for 179 and three touchdowns, while Will Downes caught four balls for 136 yards and two scores.
‚ÄúThose five touchdowns weren‚Äôt just me. It goes 50/50,‚ÄĚ Drena said. ‚Äú[Our receivers] are making plays everywhere. It seemed like every time I put the ball up in the air, they were coming down with an acrobatic catch. I say it over and over: I think we have the best receiving core in the state.‚ÄĚ
The receivers are just a small part of a veteran offensive group surrounding the signal caller. The Blue Knights have seniors starting at every unit, which head coach Mike Drury said will play into his squad‚Äôs favor, especially later in the season.
‚ÄúI think that gives us a great advantage,‚ÄĚ Drury said. ‚ÄúThe guys know what it‚Äôs like. They‚Äôve been in the fire. We have a bunch of guys who have been there and played in big games and big situations. So they know not to get nervous, [to] stay within your technique.‚ÄĚ
Though Drena had not started for the Blue Knights before Friday, his familiarity with the players on the roster was key to team‚Äôs success. He said he has been playing football with most of the players on the roster since third grade.
‚ÄúThe team chemistry - that‚Äôs the biggest part,‚ÄĚ the quarterback said. ‚ÄúYou could have as many playmakers as you want, but if everybody‚Äôs not on the same page and it‚Äôs not a brotherhood, it‚Äôs not even worth going out on the field. It‚Äôs our town vs. their town and that‚Äôs a special feeling.‚ÄĚ
Drena knows bringing the state championship back to Southington for the first time since 2014 will be a difficult task, one that will require him to be at the top of his game, day in and day out.
‚Äú[Drury] always preaches about ‚Äėthe process,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Drena said. ‚ÄúEvery day, every practice, every rep, we just have to make sure that we‚Äôre executing and keep doing our brand of football.‚ÄĚ
With Drena under center for the Blue Knights, there‚Äôs no reason to think a championship is out of the question.
Tyler Roaix can be reached at email@example.com