WEST HARTFORD — Southington coach Mike Drury could have displayed any number of emotions in the wake of one of his team’s most stunning setbacks.
He could have shown disgust seasoned with a dash of anger. The Blue Knights scored the first three touchdowns of the game and had a two-possession lead going into the fourth quarter.
In the aftermath of a startling 49-37 defeat at the hands of Hall Saturday afternoon, Drury held his head high, thrust his jaw forward and displayed the resolve that he believes his team will have after having certain victory and an undefeated season slip away.
The Knights, 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the CCC Division I West, led 21-0 after the first quarter and 37-21 after the third. Quarterback Stephen Barmore threw for three touchdowns to Alex Jamele and strafed the Warriors’ secondary for 353 yards.
But the defense’s inability to check the relentless attack presented by Hall quarterback Tom Honyotski and an array of athletic receivers had Drury sensing that better days lie ahead as a result.
“We’re going to learn from this. This is not going to define our season,” he said. “They played a great game, their coaches did a great job. They had us today but we’re going to move forward from it.
“You rebound. We get better. We fine-tune everything and clean everything up. We get out there and get ready for next week against Conard.”
On the other side of the field, Hall coach Frank Robinson III couldn’t recall too many better days.
“This is a great win for our program,” he said. “Hats off to them for being so good. Hats off to our kids for playing so darned hard and never giving up. ... I’m not good at rating stuff but this has to be one of our top games. Which game’s the best? I don’t know. They’re all really good but this was a humongous win for us.”
After Southington missed a 30-yard field goal on the third play of the fourth quarter, Hall mounted its miracle reversal. The Warriors (4-1, 2-0) marched 80 yards in 13 plays. Drury cited numerous turning points. One came when Hall was faced with a third-and-13 from its own 35 and Honyotski completed a 22-yard pass to Octovio Thomas that was deflected first by an intended receiver 10 yards upfield from him.
“You hold them first and second down and then they get the big one on you,” Drury said. “It’s tough, but they called a good game and had our number at the end. We had a great preparation. We just didn’t come out and execute.”
Honyotski connected with Rob Parra seven plays later on the touchdown that cut the lead to 10.
“They have some offensive weapons, their coaches did a great job but we didn’t make the plays we typically make,” Drury said. “We controlled the line of scrimmage at times. Run game-wise, I think we did a good job. We just let up some short passes and missed a few tackles that’s uncharacteristic of our defense. We’re going to get better from it.”
Southington went three and out and a short punt against the wind set up Hall on the Knights’ 38. A sprawling catch by Mo Bell from 25 yards out sliced the lead to three but Southington was getting the ball with under four minutes to go. An inspired defensive stand had Southington punting again less than a minute later. Honyotski and company went to work at the Hall 28.
Mixing run and pass and alternating passes between three receivers, Hall took its first lead of the game at 41-37 on a 12-yard pass to Neil Kelley with 43 second left.
“I stopped and I knew [the defender] was pretty close to me so I came back toward it,” Kelley said.
Barmore seemed to be getting in rhythm for a final, decisive drive when Kelley picked him off and sailed 77 yards untouched — the second touchdown in 32 seconds.
The Southington defense stifled the Hall ground game for the most part, yielding less than two yards per carry. Honyotski was sacked six times and seven other plays were made behind the line of scrimmage, including Tyler Hyde’s tackle of Devon Hightower in the end zone for a safety that broke a 21-21 tie in the third quarter. But the 31 complete passes and 401 yards compiled by Honyotski would serve as the Knights’ epitaph.
“We’ve got to be able to put teams away,” Drury said. “There are always those couple of turning points in a game and they happened early on and allowed them to stay in the game with us.”
The linebacking corps — Zach Maxwell, Jamele and his older brother Zach — turned in a productive day’s work on defense. On offense, Alex Jamele hauled in touchdown passes of 84, 58 and 35 yards. Hyde and Maxwell had rushing touchdowns.
Hall 49, Southington 37
At Robert S. Chalmers Stadium
S—Tyler Hyde 7 run (Kyle Smick kick), 10:55
S—Alex Jamele 84 pass from Stephen Barmore (Smick kick), 8:49
S—Zach Maxwell 3 run (Smick kick), 4:49
H—Devon Hightower 2 run (Tom Honyotski kick), 10:21
H—Hightower 4 run (Honyotski kick), 4:49
H—Jordan Bell 4 run (Honyotski kick), 1:45
S—Safety, Hyde tackled Hightower in end zone, 8:29
S—Jamele 35 pass from Barmore (Smick kick), 8:06
S—Jamele 58 pass from Barmore (Smick kick), 2:12
H—Rob Parra 6 pass from Honyotski (run failed), 6:39
H—Mo Bell 25 pass from Honyotski (Honyotski kick), 3:54
H—Neil Kelley 12 pass from Honyotski (Honyotski kick), :43
H—Kelley 77 interception return (Javonne Bellamy run), :11
RUSHING—Southington (28-122): Hyde 16-66, Barmore 7-30, Maxwell 5-26; Hall (37-50): Hightower 9-28, J. Bell 8-23, Bellamy 7-17, Honyotski 12-minus 20, Hunter Pond 1-2.
PASSING—Southington (29-353, 3 TD, 2 INT) Barmore 19-29-2, 353 yds.; Hall (42-401, 3 TD, 0 INT): Honyotski 31-42-0, 401 yds..
RECEIVING—Southington (19-353) Alex Jamele 8-255, Jasen Rose 3-26, Hyde 3-24, Kyle Borawski 3-25, Joe Daigle 1-10, Matt Maxwell 1-13; Hall (31-401) Octovio Thomas 10-186, Kelley 7-71, Parra 6-70, Hightower 1-14, Bellamy 2-18, Qu’ran Richards 2-20, M. Bell 1-25, J. Bell 2-minus 3.