SOUTHINGTON - Before the Southington football team played Simsbury last season, head coach Mike Drury gathered his players after practice and told them they had to be perfect in every aspect of the game.
Simsbury, he said, would be coming ready to play. They had to be as well. That message hasn’t changed much going into tonight’s matchup.
“We have to go there and execute on offense, defense and special teams,” Drury said. “We have to take it personally that we want to make sure we play our best and that’s important. Every week you want to do that when you go out there and have accountability of each other. Those are the things we’re preaching and those are the things we want to do.”
The 10th-ranked Blue Knights (1-0) already know they’ll be getting the Trojans’ best from an opponent that desperately wants to come out with a win. Southington has won the last eight meetings between the two, including an easy 35-6 victory last season.
But Simsbury (0-1) has been on a program on the rise as of late, despite last week’s 31-26 loss to Hall. After finishing 5-5 in 2016, the Trojans finished with a 7-3 mark last year, good for the team’s first winning season since 2012 and best season since going 9-2 in 2009.
Running back Mark Bedson will be the primary offensive weapon for Simsbury after taking over for Rafael Nieves, who rushed for 1,346 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017. The senior ran for a game-high 165 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries last week. He also caught a pass for 29 yards.
The tailback will be relied upon heavily with Jackson Butler making his second career start at quarterback. Unlike Southington signal caller Jacob Drena, who also made his first start of the season last week and threw for five touchdowns, Butler struggled. He completed just 7 of his 19 passes for 101 yards and two interceptions.
Overall, it should be a good test for the Blue Knights’ front seven, which features five new starters.
“They like to do a lot of screens, so our defensive line has to get ready for that,” senior defensive tackle Ryan Grovinski said. “But if they’re going to run the ball, we’re going to stop them. They’re not getting 150 yards [tonight]. We have to go full force. We put a lot of hours into our preparation.”
On the offensive side, Southington will look to take advantage of a Simsbury defense that gave up plenty of big plays and points to Hall. The Blue Knights are expecting to see more zone defense than they did in Week 1 against Glastonbury, which was more of a press coverage team.
That shouldn’t be too much of an issue for Southington’s passing game. In addition to his five touchdowns, Drena threw for 356 yards. Jacob Flynn finished with five catches for 179 yards and three scores, while Will Downes caught four balls for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
“Their corners and secondary and pretty good,” Flynn said of Simsbury’s defense. “We have to do what we did all week in practice and execute our game plan. We need to come out and score first. Against Glastonbury, we had that slow start. [Tonight], we have to come out strong and just impose our will on them and come out firing.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org