FOOTBALL: Deal the Cards! Blue Knights gear up for Alliance showdown with No. 1 Greenwich

SOUTHINGTON — Opportunity is knocking.

It may be 72 miles and a long bus ride away, but the Southington football team can hear it.

The Connecticut High School Football Alliance has produced a juicy non-conference matchup Saturday to cap off Week 3.

It’ll take place at Greenwich High School, where Southington will travel about 1½ hours to take on the state’s No. 1 ranked football team at 3 p.m.

“It’s a statement game for us,” Southington senior running back Lincoln Cardillo said.

“We’re coming to practice (this week) knowing this will be one of the best teams we play this season, if not the best team we play,” added Cardillo. “We cannot tread this week lightly at all. If we don’t play a perfect game, the statement won’t be in our favor.”

While there will be a total of 42 Alliance games Friday and Saturday, all eyes will certainly be on the clash of top-10 teams when the No. 6 Blue Knights visit No 1 Greenwich.

Not only is the game a possible CIAC Class LL playoff preview, but it’s also a pair of 2-0 heavyweights with big aspirations. Both will flex their program’s muscle Saturday in the hopes of earning plenty of early season bragging rights.

“I like the Alliance because you get to play these big games,” Southington head coach Mike Drury said. “They’re fun games to play in as a kid, and they are fun games to coach as a coach.

“Hopefully, it is a (LL playoff preview) because, hopefully, we are both going in that trajectory,” Drury added. “Every opportunity that we have to play a big game like this we want to maximize our ability and play to our potential.

“They are a great team; they do some really good stuff. We have to limit some of the things they do,” continued Drury. “But yeah, it’s a huge game.”

Thanks to the Alliance, Southington’s trip to Greenwich is yet another big CCC-FCIAC matchup. And while Southington has enjoyed its share of success against the FCIAC, the Blue Knights have come up short recently as the CCC’s flag bearer in big games against the FCIAC.

Southington has lost six of its last seven games against teams out of the FCIAC. In the Blue Knights’ defense, five of those losses were to Darien teams that played for (and won) three Class LL state titles.

Southington also lost a year ago to New Canaan in the first round of the Class LL playoffs. In 2019, after beating Ridgefield in the playoff opener, SHS lost to Darien in the Class LL semifinals. Southington also lost to Darien, which reached the 2019 state title game, in the 2019 regular season.

The Blue Knights were ousted by Darien’s state championship teams in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 postseasons.

Prior to running into Darien, SHS did beat FCIAC’s schools Ridgefield and Fairfield Prep during its first of two straight championship seasons in 2013 and 2014.

“Hey, you’re playing the No. 1 team in the state. We’ve been there; we’ve been the No. 1 team in the state during the regular season,” Drury said. “It’s an opportunity for us.

“The spotlight (will be on us),” added Drury. “There are no other teams playing at 3 o’clock on a Saturday. It’s going to be a big, exciting game.”

In winning their first two games, both Southington and Greenwich have averaged over 40 points a game. But while the Blue Knights haven’t been tested in routs of Newington (35-14) and Hall (49-21), the Cardinals had to rally from a 21-0 deficit last week to win at Ridgefield, 49-42.

Greenwich outscored Ridgefield 42-7 from midway through the second quarter to early in the fourth. The Tigers scored two of the game’s final three touchdowns as Greenwich held on for the win.

Leading the way for Greenwich is senior quarterback Jack Wilson, who returned this season after a junior campaign that saw him lead the Cardinals to the Class LL semifinals by throwing for 19 touchdowns and 1,630 yards.

This season, Wilson hasn’t needed to throw the ball much with Greenwich featuring a pair of running backs behind a big offensive line. Wilson has thrown for just one touchdown, but found the end zone six times on the ground.

Senior tailback Jack Konigsberg has run for 222 yards and scored four touchdowns. He’s averaging 6.9 yards a carry, while junior running back George Vomvolkis has 156 yards and is averaging 7.8 yards a carry.

They run behind a big offensive line features four seniors and a sophomore. Senior center Teddy Flinn is the smallest at 5-foot-9, 190 pounds.

The other four are massive: sophomore RT Peter Vomvolakis (6-2, 280), senior RG Vinny Insinga (6-0, 300), senior LG Drew Falla (6-3, 285) and senior LT Jack Kiernan (6-2, 265).

The four seniors have played together since youth football. The sophomore Vomvolakis played varsity as a freshman last season.

“It’s a big game; Greenwich is good,” said Southington senior linebacker Aaron Borkowski, who leads the Blue Knights with 22 tackles through the first two games. “They’ve got some big linemen who will hit. They’re big and strong. But if we take care of that, we’ll be good.”

“They do a little bit of both, but they really want to run the football,” said Drury of the Greenwich offense. “They are very big up front — the biggest we’ve seen in, like, 10 years. They have size. We have to play with speed against them.”

Speed is something the Blue Knights have plenty of on offense, and it starts with junior wideout Rashard Williams.

The first time Williams touched the ball as a varsity player, he returned a kickoff 80 yards to set up Southington’s first touchdown on opening night at Newington. Then, last week, Williams scored four touchdowns in the Blue Knights’ rout of Hall.

Against Hall, Williams caught six C.J. DiBenedetto passes for 145 yards, turning slants into scoring plays with plenty of yards after catches.

“I got all the nervousness out of me (at Newington) and I had to just play my game,” said Williams of his performance last Friday against Hall. “The chemistry (between DiBenedetto and me) is there. We worked all summer together on running routes and, so far, it’s showing off in the season.”

“He’s a dynamic player,” said Drury of Williams. “You put the ball in his hands and the show starts.

“We are excited to see him grow as a player and all the things he’s going to do,” Drury added. “He (already) does some great stuff that creates a matchup nightmare.”

Williams broke out last week after catching a single pass at Newington.

Williams, however, isn’t alone when it comes to making plays on offense. DiBenedetto has thrown for 522 yards and seven touchdowns, spreading the ball around the field.

Another junior, John Flynn, has two touchdowns and leads the team with eight catches. Senior Kam Beaudoin and junior Evan Anderson are two more capable receivers at DiBenedetto’s disposal.

“They are new guys, but it’s an offensive group capable of really good things.” Drury said. “We talk about going out there and making your plays, winning first down and letting our skill guys and playmakers do their thing.”

Not be overshadowed by the underclassmen, Cardillo has made plenty of plays himself. All he did against Hall was run for 228 yards and a pair of first-half touchdowns.

On the season, Cardillo is averaging 7.7 yards a carry and has scored four touchdowns on the ground. He also took a DiBenedetto swing pass and raced 60 yards to the end zone at Newington.

“Lincoln is just a hell of a runner,” Drury said. “And he’s a hungry player.”

So, the stage is set. Not only is it No. 6 vs. No. 1, the CCC vs. the FCIAC, and the biggest game of Week 3, it’s Greenwich’s Homecoming Game.

“Everyone is ready; we are prepared,” Williams said. “They are No. 1 right now, but we want to show them what Southington football is all about.”


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