SOUTHINGTON — To understand how Southington football’s defense operates, one only needs to look at a drill the players ran during Wednesday’s practice in the rain at Fontana Field.
The players start in a single line across the end zone area of the field, then take off toward a designated coach while running on an angle. For the Blue Knights defense, it’s about getting as many players to the ball carrier as quickly as possible.
“It’s always about 11 kids to the football every play,” senior captain and linebacker Matt Thomson said.
The name of the game for the defense, led by defensive coordinator Rob Thomson, Matt’s father, is speed. Southington may not be a big team, but it has plenty of speed. In the last six games, opponents haven’t fared well against that speed. After beating New Britain 54-20, the Blue Knight defense has allowed just two touchdowns — both in the fourth quarter with the reserves on the field — in the last six games. There are three shutouts within those six games, and no opponent scored more than eight points. Southington has won the six games by scores of 48-0, 41-6, 27-0, 49-8, 48-0 and 44-7.
In the regular season finale against Cheshire, the Blue Knights faced Ram senior running back Andrew Yamin, who came in averaging over 230 yards per game. Southington held the senior standout to 22 yards on 15 carries.
“Holding Yamin to  yards when he averages 200 yards-plus definitely surprised us,” Matt Thomson said.
Why have the Blue Knights been so good on defense? Southington coach Mike Drury sees a defense that is intense, plays as one and is aggressive.
“We’ve been tackling great this entire season, gang-tackling,” Drury said.
Thomson and senior defensive end Matt Koczera each have over 80 tackles on the season (84 and 81), but they also lead the team in assisted tackles (50 and 41), according to statistics posted on MaxPreps.com.
“One guy tackles him, you got 10 guys on his back gang-tackling him,” Thomson said.
Koczera (listed at 6-foot, 206 pounds), senior defensive end Dan Williams (5-11, 210) and senior defensive tackle Zack Spooner (5-10, 194) may not be the biggest line in terms of size, but they’re tough to get past.
“They play with a motor and an intensity, and they’re strong,” Drury said.
Each lineman is capable of stopping the run, then getting after the quarterback on pass plays. Zach Maxwell — now at West Point — is no longer patrolling the front line on defense, but Southington is still giving opposing quarterbacks fits. Koczera leads the team with seven sacks while Williams has tallied six. The Blue Knights have 30 sacks as a team.
“We have some great pass rushers this season,” Drury said.
At linebacker, there’s Thomson (6-2, 205), senior Steve Hamel (6-0, 191) and junior Logan LaRosa (5-11, 185). Thomson has been a great leader along with Hamel, who calls out the plays on the field.
“Our linebackers are tough in the middle and they are great blitzers,” Drury said.
Thomson and Hamel are tied for third on the team in sacks with 3½. Freshman Ryan Montalvo (5-10, 195), who rotates in at linebacker, is fifth with 2½ sacks.
“When teams pass, we’ve been really trying to pressure the quarterback,” Drury said.
In the secondary, quarterbacks have to deal with senior Alex Jamele (5-11, 176), senior Matt Maxwell (6-2, 190), senior Drew Barmore (5-11, 177), senior Peter Majchrzak (5-10, 166) and sophomore Anthony Plantamuro (5-9, 155). Maxwell is tied for the team lead in interceptions with Thomson at three while Barmore has two.
Southington’s defense has given up less than seven points per game and has forced opponents into 28 turnovers. The Blue Knights have made plenty of noise with their explosive offense this season, but their defense has also been great.
“It’s doing your job, and we have a great defensive coordinator in Rob Thomson,” Drury said.
Southington also has great defensive players who are committed to playing hard on that side of the ball. The Blue Knights look to stay aggressive on defense in their Class LL-Large semifinal against Glastonbury on Saturday.
Southington High School’s football team may have won the Class LL Championship last season, but starting September 12th the team will have to defend that title in the season opener against Glastonbury.
The team has a new quarterback, Jasen Rose, after Steven Barmore went off to Yale. The past glory is in the past, according to head coach Mike Drury, and the team now needs to focus on the present.