The Southington football team enjoyed a successful season in 2019, losing just one regular season game before reaching the Class LL semifinals. Last week, the Blue Knights showed off the depth that helped them put together that kind of success, celebrating the college commitments of seven seniors who will be moving on to play at the next level next season.
“It was a great year,” head coach Mike Drury said. “This is about the highest amount of players we've sent out collegiately. We're excited to see those guys bring their intensity and effort to the next level.”
The seven seniors gathered with their families on Fontana Field at Southington High School on Thursday afternoon, signing individually and practicing the typical social distancing guidelines that have made these events different from years past, but as close to normal as possible.
“It was great to see the kids,” Drury said. “I miss seeing them every day. That's been the hardest part about this whole thing.”
One of the seven was Carter Uhlman, who did get a chance to have a signing celebration in the school library back in February when he committed to play a Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, a Division-II program who will be getting a dynamic wide receiver who was named All-State as a senior with the Blue Knights.
“I’m excited to see him excel at the next level,” Drury said of Uhlman.
Another All-State talent signed on Thursday in linebacker Billy Carr, who will be playing at Springfield College next season. Carr was named to the CHSCA’s Top 26 All-State team this past season after leading Southington in tackles, solo tackles and tackles for a loss.
“That’s a great program with a lot of tradition and pride there,” Drury said of Springfield. “I know they're excited to have Billy there.”
The Blue Knights’ third All-State senior in 2019 was Johnny Carreiro, whose interception late in the Class LL quarterfinals secured a win for Southington, which clinched a trip to the semifinals, where Carreiro recorded another pick. Carreiro will be attending Endicott College this fall.
“He’s a great defensive player for us and a tremendous leader,” Drury said. “I know those guys are excited to have him.”
Carreiro also sensed that enthusiasm from the coaches at Endicott, helping make his decision on where to continue his football career an easy one.
“I really love the area up there, and all the support and love their staff showed,” Carreiro said. “Throughout the recruiting process, I think they showed the most love...and I really got comfortable with their system and all the players. I love everything about the school from academics to sports. I think I made the right choice. It was the right fit for me.”
Josh Vitti will be attending Nichols College after a strong senior season with the Blue Knights. His two touchdowns against Hall were huge in securing a win during the regular season, and he also had an impact on the defensive side, though he will be playing wide receiver at Nichols.
“He was a dynamic two-way player for us,” Drury said.
Sam Bouchard will be making a long trek to his next destination, committing to Kenyon College in Ohio, which is regarded as one of the top academic schools in the country. For Bouchard, continuing to play football will be a bonus at a school that rivals many Ivy League universities in terms of its academic excellence.
“I went to a camp in Massachusetts over the summer and some of their coaches were there and they were great people,” Bouchard said. “I loved talking to them. I made a 10-hour drive to meet all of the coaches and see the school, and I loved it there immediately. It's a top-two percent school in the country, so it was a great fit. I'm really excited to get out there.”
The final two signees can carpool to their next destination, as Dillon Kohl and Zack Zembrzuski will both be heading to Western New England University. Kohl was one of the Blue Knights’ top offensive threats this past season out of the backfield, and will have a familiar face in uniform with him next fall.
“I think that’s going to be a big help having Zack there,” Kohl said. “It's reassuring I'll know someone there. It's going to be great with all of the other things that are changing. It's going to be challenging, but that's what I want.”
Zembrzuski’s shot at college football seemed to be in jeopardy after tearing the same ACL twice in one year, but he battled back to finish his high school career on a high note after missing just six and a half months following his second tear.
“He missed the majority of the season, played the last three games and didn't miss a snap,” Drury said. “It was like he never left. He really battled himself back. We're proud of him.”
Being able to finish his senior season gave Zembrzuski confidence that his football career wasn’t over, and that it would only get better as he continued to get stronger and healthier following a pair of devastating injuries.
“It just really shows that my best is yet to come, because I only got to play in five varsity games,” Zembrzuski said. “I think my hard work will pay off in college.”