SOUTH WINDSOR — There’s no debate about it. Saturday’s Southington-South Windsor football game was a classic.
Feelings differ over the finish.
Cameron Plourde’s 22-yard field goal in overtime gave South Windsor a 30-27 CCC Division I crossover victory, touching off a raucous on-field mosh pit of Bobcats players and fans.
The Southington sideline, meantime, was seething. Plourde’s game-winning kick came after a Southington touchdown to start overtime had been taken off the scoreboard for a personal foul away from the play.
“It was a live-ball foul,” Southington coach Mike Drury said of the explanation he got of the call that erased an 8-yard touchdown pass from Will Barmore to Ryan Montalvo. “We’ll see what it was; we’ll take a look at it.
“You’re upset,” Drury added. “You don’t want to lose games like this. It was a hard-fought battle.”
While the Blue Knights fumed over one of their most bitter defeats in Drury’s seven-year tenure, one that knocks them to 7-2 and jeopardizes their playoff chances, the Bobcats improved to 8-1, strengthened their Class LL playoff hand and celebrated one of the town’s greatest football victories ever.
South Windsor has played in only one state football final (1988) and had fallen on low times before coach Dave Hodge began rebuilding four years ago. There’s no question where Saturday’s win ranks in his mind.
”Top one, it really is,” Hodge said. “Against a program like Southington, with their history, and a lot of people still not believing we had what it took to beat Southington.”
The Bobcats certainly had to dig deep. They trailed 21-7 at halftime and 27-14 late in the third quarter before third-year senior quarterback Connor Kapisak rallied South Windsor with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Wilson and a 66-yarder to Colin Ryan.
The latter score was the second 60-yard scoring connection between Kapisak and Ryan, who opened the second half with a 61-yarder. Both were on a short fades down the sideline in which Ryan got open behind single coverage.
The second Ryan TD came with 5:56 left in regulation and gave South Windsor a chance to take the lead. Instead, Southington’s Anthony Vecchio, charging hard on the extra-point with fellow defensive back Shaun Wagner, blocked the kick to keep the game tied.
The Blue Knights had a chance to pull out victory late in regulation, gaining a first down at the South Windsor 23 with 2:06 to play. The Bobcats held by breaking up three consecutive passes, including on fourth-and-9.
Foregoing a 41-yard field goal attempt into a slight wind, the Blue Knights threw an inside hitch on that fourth-and-9 play to Will Downes, who was back in action after missing five games to injury. Barmore’s pass was on the button. South Windsor DB Tyler Osit reached over and knocked it down from behind.
Some Southington faithful howled for pass interference. Others said it was a good non-call. It was nothing compared to what was about to transpire.
Southington had first ups in overtime, which follows the Kansas tiebreaker system (four downs from the 10). On third-and-8, Barmore and Montalvo pulled off high drama. Barmore dropped back, bought time left, then reversed right and unloaded to a wide-open Montalvo on the right hash. The running back made the catch along the line of scrimmage, bolted five yards and launched into the end zone from the 3 with a finishing somersault.
Through the din of the Southington celebration whistles could be heard from the far side of the field. Then a strange silence. Then the call: No touchdown, personal foul Southington.
Video of the play shows a Southington receiver and his defender tangled up and shoving on the far side of the end zone. A flag flies before Montalvo scores.
No question: It was a “live-play foul.” The debate: Should it have been called?
“Jamming him up, holding him, this and that, and our kid kind of pushed him off,” Drury said. “We’ll have to see it. I don’t know. I didn’t take a look at it yet.”
Saturday’s outcome continues a remarkable shift in power in the CCC’s top division. South Windsor, at No. 6 in the Class LL playoff points, and East Hartford, at No. 7 thanks largely to a 27-20 win over Southington on Oct. 27, are in great shape to break long playoff droughts.
Southington, which has gone to the postseason for five years running, still holds onto the eighth and final spot, but will need to beat Cheshire in the Apple Classic to keep that run alive.
Even while emotions were still raw Saturday, Drury was turning his team’s attention to the challenge ahead.
“It’s how we’re going to respond,” Drury told his team. “It’s how we respond in this situation. We’ve got to dig in and respond ... Seniors, captains, it’s on you. You’ve got to make sure we dial it in. Leave here with compusure, grace, heads high and moving forward.”
Southington built its 21-7 halftime lead on a pair of rushing touchdowns from Montalvo and another from Tanner LaRosa. After South Windsor opened the second half with the first Kapisak-to-Ryan fade ball, Barmore pushed the Southington lead back to two scores, 27-14, with a couple completions to Tim O’Shea that set up his own 16-yard touchdown run.