Big arms, big shoes. And Will Barmore now stands where they once stood — in his older cousin’s No. 12 jersey, no less, which Stephen “bequeathed” to Will at his farewell Southington football banquet.
Here’s the torch, young man. Carry it well.
Who will argue Will Barmore has not done just that? Whether he can lead Southington back to the top of Class LL and dislodge the Darien dynasty that has taken root over the last two years remains to be seen. That aside, Will Barmore has been a successful quarterback. He took up the reins last year as a junior and went 11-1.
Barmore is back as a 5-foot-11, 195-pound senior with the full confidence of his coaches and, as his status as a team captain attests, of his teammates. He is the latest in Southington’s long line of standout quarterbacks.
“That’s the idea behind it,” said head coach Mike Drury. “You’ve got to carry the torch. It keeps going. Guys are going to come, go, leave. The players in the program, they feel the responsibility to carry on the tradition and compete at a high level the best they can.”
Barmore’s stats from a year ago are solid, not eye-popping. He completed 142 of 242 passes for 1,815 yards and 24 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Those numbers, though, must be put into context. So many of Southington’s games last season were so one-sided that the new CIAC score management rules kicked in, the clock went on running time and the reserves made an early appearance.
Essentially, the Blue Knights played a lot of one-half games. In the first nine, Barmore threw for over 200 yards just once. Given the blowout scores, not to mention the power running of Vance Upham, Barmore simply didn’t have to air it out.
Then came the coming-out party on Thanksgiving. As the Blue Knights pulled away to a 47-20 Apple Classic win over Cheshire, Barmore completed 16 of 29 passes for 272 yards and three TDs. Two completions followed great-escape scrambles reminscent of Eli Manning in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.
“Will, he’s such a heady player,” Drury said. “He understands the offense, understands what he needs to be. Situation football: He really understands that.
Drury also likes Barmore’s emotional approach to the job. It’s the preferred QB makeup: not too high, not too low.
“He’s going to stay real even-keeled and go out there and compete hard and make the right decisions as a quarterback,” said the head coach.
Barmore has also impressed his new quarterbacks coach, Frank Stamilio. The former Southington offensive coordinator, who helped Jude Kelly install the Air Raid back in the 1990s, has rejoined the Blue Knights after tours of duty at New Britain and St. Paul.
In Barmore, Stamilio recognizes a skilled and reliable field general.
“He might not have some of the of the big Division I quarterbacks’ guns, but what he does is manage the game really, really well and has command of our offense,” Stamilio said. “He has a great sense of the game and he’s passionate and he wants to keep learning.”
Aside from a year of playing center at a young age, Barmore was always on the receiving end of the snap as he came up through the ranks. He did not see the varsity field as a freshman in 2014 and only scant varsity duty (2 games, 1-for-2 passing) as a sophomore in Rose’s final season in 2015.
Barmore’s time arrived in 2016. The initial transition was not smooth.
“Last year, I was a little flustered at times in the offseason,” Barmore said. “I didn’t know all the nuances.”
Comfort and stability came with playing time. It started as early as the preseason game scrimmage against Xavier.
“Once I hit the field and I realized it was just a football game, everything slowed down,” Barmore said. “I was making my reads and it was a lot of fun.
“With our team, we get a ton of reps in practice, so things clicked a lot faster for me,” Barmore added. “But it definitely took through the sophomore year, a little into my junior year for everything to click and for me to realize I have control over this offense.”
Barmore likes having that control over the plays. It’s what draws him to quarterbacking. Likewise, he embraces his leadership role.
“I know they know what they’re doing,” Barmore said of his teammates. “I just remind them that they know what they’re doing because once they figure that out and focus in, we’re a real hard team to stop.”
Ah, yes, there is a tradition of that. The Blue Knights are 56-4 over the past five seasons — 49-1 in the regular season, 7-3 in the postseason. There have been five straight playoff trips, four CCC Division I-West titles, two state crowns.
Barmore to Rose to Barmore the Younger.
The two cousins worked out quite a bit this summer before Stephen headed back to New Haven for his senior year at Yale. Will heads into his senior year in Southington wearing the No. 12. Carry the torch.
“I was humbled and honored when he gave me his number at the banquet. He really means a lot to me,” said Will. “I used to go all his games. I loved watching Stephen play. I always wanted to be just like him.”