FOOTBALL: Big hits highlight bounce-back win for Big Blue

SOUTHINGTON — Six days. Six long days.

It was clear the Southington football team wanted to get the taste of last week’s double-overtime loss to Maloney out of its mouth in a hurry.

Mother Nature cooperated. With the remnants of Hurricane Nicole on the way, Southington’s Week 10 CCC Tier 1 contest with Conard was moved up a night.

With one less day to wait, No. 2 Southington wasted no time in routing the Red Wolves, 49-21.

Lincoln Cardillo’s third touchdown with just under nine minutes to play in the third quarter gave Southington a 42-7 lead and instituted the CIAC’s running clock for the majority of the second half. 

But long before SHS led 35-7 by halftime, the outcome was never in doubt. 

“We left a lot on the table last week,” said Southington coach Mike Drury. “We felt we had the opportunity to come away with a win last week and we didn’t, but that’s the name of the game. So we just said, ‘We are going to get better and learn from it.’

“I thought the guys came out and played a really crisp game all around,” added Drury. “I thought we executed in all phases of the game.”

Drury’s assessment was an understatement.

Cardillo scored twice in the game’s opening nine minutes, while quarterback C.J. DiBenedetto threw three second-quarter touchdowns.

Cardillo ran for 253 yards on 15 carries. The senior scored his 17th, 18th and 19th rushing touchdowns of the season.

DiBenedetto was an effective 9-of-14 for 153 yards. He hit Ray Williams for a pair of touchdown passes in the second quarter. Williams finished with six catches for 91 yards.

The victory improved Southington to 8-1 and comes after the Blue Knights lost 31-28 to Maloney in last week’s showdown of No. 1 and No. 2 teams at Falcon Field. Maloney replaced SHS at No. 1 in this week’s state polls.

Maloney, however, lost Thursday night 28-21 to Glastonbury in overtime.

The Spartans’ loss opens the way for SHS to move back to No. 1 on Monday. But whether the Blue Knights move up a spot in the minds of the media wasn’t the only thing on Southington minds Thursday night.

Last season’s loss at Conard was just as much a motivating factor.

“Practice was a very hostile environment,” Cardillo said. “We knew we’d screwed up. That was a win we should have had. It lit a fire under us. It really pushed us in this game.

“We had a chip on our shoulders from losing last year to these guys,” Cardillo added. “It was a cold bus ride home (that night).”

“It was a little payback for last year,” DiBenedetto said. “All of our brothers, who come here to watch the game. It means a lot to us, to bring the hammer.”

The rout was on from the game’s first play when Cardillo broke free for a 60-yard touchdown run. 

He then scampered another 45 yards for a touchdown five minutes later to give Southington a 14-0 lead eight minutes into the game.

Cardillo’s big night started with 135 yards on six carries in the first quarter. He had over 200 at halftime and was just part of what looked at the time as an unstoppable SHS offense.

With Cardillo doing his thing on the ground, DiBenedetto followed with his three touchdown passes in the second quarter to give Southington a 35-7 lead at halftime. Southington took that lead when DiBenedetto hit fellow junior John Flynn for a 62-yard touchdown.

Earlier in the quarter, the Blue Knights made it 21-0 on the first of two Williams’ touchdown passes from DiBenedetto. It came just four plays into the second quarter. DiBenedetto hit Williams over the middle and the speedy wideout broke a tackle on his way to a 33-yard touchdown.

The score came after the pair’s 70-yard touchdown pass in the first period was wiped out by a holding penalty. No matter. The duo just hooked up twice in the second quarter. Williams was back in the end zone with 6:28 before half on a 7-yard pass. 

And after Conard scored with 1:50 to play before the break, DiBenedetto found Flynn over the middle with just 24 seconds on the clock for the 35-7 lead.

“We definitely had a fire under our belts,” said Flynn about losing to Maloney last week.

Cardillo’s night was done after his third touchdown. He was replaced in the backfield by Marco Testa.

Testa scored Southington’s seventh touchdown of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the Blue Knights ahead 49-14.

As much as the offense was in control all night, the SHS defense held the Red Wolves in check. As the lead grew to 28-0, the D stopped Conard twice on fourth down. Only Edwards’ first touchdown from 38 yards with 1:50 avoided a first-half shutout.

“It was a great week of practice; we were all focused and dialed in,” said defensive lineman Carter Larson, who had a pair of first-half sacks. “We made sure we were all ready for this week.”

With the Blue Knights up 42-7, Edwards scored on a 58-yard run with 3:41 left in the third quarter. Isiah Torres then scored the game’s final touchdown with 2:17 to play.


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