WEST HAVEN — Here’s the funny thing about the day Southington junior wide receiver Alex Jamele broke the state record for touchdown receptions in a season: He played just as well, if not better, on defense.
“He plays with such a motor,” as senior quarterback Stephen Barmore put it, and you can trust his assessment since he has such a good view of the proceedings whether he’s throwing passes to Jamele or lining up with him in the secondary.
On Saturday, for the 25th and 26th time this year, Barmore and Jamele hooked up on a touchdown pass. No Connecticut combo has ever had so many in a single season.
The 25th, which tied the record, was a beautiful fade to the corner of the end zone from 22 yards out late in the first quarter. That got the Blue Knights on the board in their 45-0 CIAC Class LL semifinal victory over Ridgefield.
The 26th, which broke both the state record as well as the Southington team record for TD passes for Barmore, was a 29-yard slant early in the second quarter. That baby turned the game to rout, because less than four minutes earlier Jamele had picked off a Ridgefield pass and taken it 40 yards to the house.
And somewhere else in the midst of all of this, Jamele broke up another Ridgefield pass with such a lung-busting hit that it seemed to knock the air out of the Ridgefield pass attack before it could get off the runway. It certainly knocked the air out of Ridgefield’s intended receiver.
Alex Jamele 21, Ridgefield 0 and the game still had six minutes to go until halftime, but don’t put it that way to Alex Jamele.
“It’s not about the personal records,” he said. “It’s just about the W at the end of the game. I would never have gotten that record without my teammates — Barmore, the linemen, running backs blocking, receivers running great routes. It couldn’t be done without my teammates.”
This is true, but here’s what sets Jamele apart: He’s got the athleticism, precision and explosive step to run any route, the savvy to alter routes and the sure hands to grab just about anything Barmore throws his way, regardless of location or velocity.
Saturday’s two touchdowns were fine examples of this. A fade and a slant: soft-touch and a bullet, ballet and a bull in a china shop.
Then there’s the issue of shedding tacklers or making them miss. The six-foot, 175-pound Jamele’s a fair hand at doing both.
“What he’s able to do is run good solid patterns and then see things that top college and pro receivers see: He sees the window,” remarked veteran head coach Chuck Drury, who is now his son Mike’s offensive coordinator on the Southington staff. “There’s a window in every pattern. He gets to the right window and then, what he does when he catches it, he’s a show. He’s slippery, he spins, he controls the ball.
“And he catches everything,” Drury added. “He catches everything in practice. Every once in a while he’ll drop a few and get all mad at himself, and he’ll catch everything for the next hour. He’s got good hands. I don’t care how hard Steve throws it, he’s catching it.”
Fittingly, Barmore and Jamele celebrated Saturday’s records in tandem:
*For Jamele, his 26th TD catch eclipsed the state mark of 25 Woodland’s Anthony Scirpo set last year (Scirpo broke Aaron Hernandez’s previous record of 24, set in 2005). Scirpo had done it in 12 games. Jamele did it in 11.
*For Barmore, his 37th TD pass broke the Southington team record of 36 which Dan Bruetsch had set in 2000 a year after throwing 34.
The second-quarter slant is the one that did it for both, but the true piece of art was the first-quarter fade. The timing was not only perfect, it was into a corner of the end zone and it was into the wind. And it came on a third-and-10 after Southington had come up empty in the red zone on their first possession.
“It was literally how we designed the play,” Jamele said. “Barmore threw it in a slot no other quarterback can throw it into.”
Watching from the sidelines, Jamele’s older brother Zach was fired up.
“Yep, that’s Alex. I was so proud of him,” said Zach. “I knew he could do it and he’s got to keep doing it.”
Zach is one of Southington’s hard-hitting linebackers, and it’s undeniable that he and some of the other Southington seniors had a role in Alex’s football development.
“Of course,” Zach said. “I beat him up all the time. He was always smaller than me. He grew and now he’s like a tree.”
“Yeah, I’d definitely say Zach beats on me,” Alex concurred.
“He’s given me some toughness in my life. It’s the way I’ve grown up ... They definitely taught me a lot; this group of seniors means the world to me. I don’t know what I’ll do without them next year.”
Next year can wait, the record books, too. Jamele and the Blue Knights have one game left to play.