December 12, 2013 09:10PM
By Ken Lipshez
SOUTHINGTON — Among the most basic building blocks in developing a foundation for a team with championship capability is unity.
The Southington football players exude that from start to finish, win or lose.
Running back Tyler Hyde praises the offensive line for creating pathways to the goal line. The linemen possess a heartfelt yearning to protect their quarterback Steve Barmore at all costs. Barmore marvels at the work ethic on the defense side of the ball.
The sideline is the picture of discipline. Emotion-driven shenanigans often visible on professional, college and high school sidelines are non-existent. The players come onto the field together. They leave the field together.
The camaraderie and their fluid interaction find their source in three distinct places.
The coaches get along extremely well with each other, showcasing a united front that impressionable young men absorb and reflect.
Most of the coaches aren’t that far beyond graduation and they can relate to the players. The indicator on the efficiency meter is wedged between friendship and respect.
“We get along so great and the kids see that,” head coach Mike Drury said. “There’s no bickering or fighting amongst us. If there’s ever a disagreement, we take care of that behind closed doors, as I think any good staff should. They’re all in. They have a great relationship with the kids. We talk to them like young men and having a good hard-working atmosphere helps with team chemistry, and that’s what we have right now.”
The seniors have been together since their youth football days. Working together toward a common goal is etched in their collective consciousness. The words “brother” and “brotherhood” are continuously interspersed in their dialog.
“I can’t define it fully,” said Zach Maxwell, a classic playmaker at defensive end and a bruising running back. “Southington isn’t the biggest town, so we’ve been playing together since we were 6- or 7-years old. Growing up together, playing together, we’re all the best of friends, so we all have each other’s backs and we all support each other. I think that’s been probably one of the most important things in making it this far.”
Barmore resides at the confluence of intelligence, leadership and talent.
His acceptance to Yale speaks for itself. He’s been playing his position on a varsity level since his freshman season. He scares opposing coaches as much with his deceptive speed and quickness as he does with the strike-throwing capabilities that spring Alex Jamele, Kyle Borawski and Joe Daigle on the fly, and make such a dynamic weapon of Jay Rose slicing into the heart of the defense.
Barmore acknowledges that a special bond exists.
“We have two leagues in Southington and in eighth grade we got to the point where we were either too old or too heavy, so we all had to converge into one team,” he said.
“Most of the seniors in this senior class were on that team.
“We actually made it to the state championship and lost [to Guilford] so we said to each other after that game that we were going to have another chance to do it in high school. Here we are.”
Among the coaches is former Platt kicker Kevin Frederick, who hooked up with Drury when they were playing together at Marist College. Frederick is the offensive coordinator and another local Red Fox disciple — Wallingford’s Dan Plant — coaches the offensive line. They can see their hard work paying dividends both physically and mentally.
“Great football teams have that chemistry and I think it starts right from the top from the coaches,” Frederick said. “We have a really tight-knit group. We consider ourselves brothers and best friends, and the kids see that.
“These kids have been playing together since they grew up. They’ve thought about this moment since they were freshmen. From that moment this is where they knew they were going to end up.
“They treat each other like brothers and like family, they really do.
“They spend a lot of time with each other away from football on the weekends and in school. You can see it on the field. They play for each other. They fight for each other.”
When it comes to the Blue Knights’ opposition on Saturday, Fairfield Prep elicits the same kind of assessment that is locally connected to Xavier. The Jesuits, unrestricted by town borders, bring in players from a multitude of towns, and they have amassed a formidable crew by anyone’s account, but can they possibly possess the type of bonds cemented by a lifetime in the same neighborhood?
That’s an intangible where the Knights ride away winners both on the field and off.