SOUTHINGTON — The stage is set.
The Southington football team did its part Friday night. So did Maloney.
Neither need to worry about looking ahead. The two CCC Tier 1 unbeatens will clash in six days in one of the most highly anticipated high school football games of the season.
Southington (7-0), which routed Glastonbury 27-6 in a Tier 1 contest Friday night at Fontana Field, will arrive at Falcon Field in a week as the state’s No. 1 ranked team.
It will meet fellow 7-0 Maloney in a clash of GameTime CT’s No. 1 and No. 3 ranked teams in the state. The Spartans rolled to a 32-0 win at Conard on Friday night.
But first things first.
Behind a big night from junior quarterback C.J. DiBenedetto, Southington never trailed in beating Glastonbury (5-2). DiBenedetto completed his first 13 passes and finished the game 18-of-22 for 266 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
DiBenedetto’s 51-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Jared Irearidi with 8:49 to play put the Blue Knights up 27-6 and sealed the win.
DiBenedetto’s arm also provided the first points. His 11-yard strike to Kam Beaudoin capped off the game’s opening drive.
“I just stayed relaxed,” said DiBenedetto, who has now thrown for 15 touchdowns this season and just three interceptions. “I’ve just kept learning this position and this offense. It’s all paying off.
“I’m confident and I feel less pressure,” added DiBenedetto. “I just have to keep doing what I’m doing. Everyone is stepping up with Evan (Anderson) out. The receivers are making big plays. Lincoln (Cardillo) running the ball. The offensive line is playing great.”
DiBenedetto was complimented once again by the legs of Cardillo. The senior tailback ran for 107 yards and a pair of scores on Senior Night. He now has 14 rushing touchdowns and 1,019 yards on the ground.
“He’s definitely seeing the field much better and making better decisions,” Southington head coach Mike Drury said of his quarterback. “Earlier on, it was kind of like we had to walk him along to make those decisions. Now, he’s playing like he’s supposed to. He’s doing a great job.”
With DiBenedetto leading the way, Southington didn’t play like a team looking ahead to a showdown with Maloney.
“You never know with kids, but you can’t look ahead. We can never look ahead; we are every team’s Super Bowl, Drury said. “We’ll close the door on this one tomorrow morning and the total focus will be on Maloney.”
Maloney would have to wait until after Friday night. And, after Glastonbury took the second-half kickoff to a 37-yard field goal to get within 13-6, Cardillo and the Blue Knights quickly answered to regain control of the game.
In two plays, Cardillo covered 62 yards, scoring on a 52-yard burst up the middle. He broke three tackles and out-ran a pair of Guardians into the end zone for a 20-6 Southington lead with 8:50 left in the third quarter.
Cardillo also scored on a 5-yard run in the second quarter to give Southington a 13-3 lead.
The Blue Knights took the opening kickoff and methodically marched 68 yards in less than five minutes to take a 7-0 lead.
Prior to hitting Beaudoin for the touchdown, DiBenedetto was a perfect 3-for-3. Cardillo also ripped off a 27-yard run during the opening drive.
DiBenedetto would go on to complete his first 13 passes, his only incompletion coming with 1:03 left in the first half on a fourth down. DiBenedetto was 13-for-14 for 176 yards and TD at the break.
The Guardians responded to the Blue Knights’ first score behind the running of senior tailback Jack Petrone. Running out of pistol offense, Petrone took eight straight handoffs to get Glastonbury to the Blue Knights’ 17.
But the SHS defense stuffed Petrone on third down, setting up Glastonbury’s Zander Hernandez, who nailed a 34-yard field got with 10:29 left in the half to get the Guardians within 7-3.
Southington went up 13-3 midway through the second quarter on Cardillo’s first TD. The score was set up by a nice kickoff return by Owen Hart. The Blue Knights went 60 yards on 10 plays. DiBenedetto was 5-for-5 on the drive.
Down 13-3, Glastonbury proceeded to threaten in the final minutes of the first half, but Caden Sirois made a nice play in the secondary to pick off Glastonbury quarterback Drew Curto at the Blue Knights’ 16 with 3:28 to play in the half.
The Blue Knight once again marched down field behind DiBenedetto and Cardillo. The pair combined on a 53-yard swing pass, setting up SHS in the Glastonbury red zone.
But DiBenedetto overthrew Blake Stephens on fourth down at the Guardians’ 4-yard line with just over a minute to play. It was DiBenedetto’s first incompletion of the game.
The Guardians avoided falling further behind, taking over on downs. Two handoffs to Petrone and sack ran out the first-half clock.
Petrone carried the ball 15 times in the first half and touched the ball on all but six offensive plays. He ran for 72 yards in the game’s opening 24 minutes, but he was held to just 35 in the second half.
It came as no surprise that Petrone was the focal point of the Guardians’ offense. The Blue Knights were facing the second elite CCC running back in as many weeks at Fontana Field. Petrone had run for over 1,200 yards in the Guardians’ first six games.
A week ago, SHS bottled up Windsor’s Chilli White.
“He’s a really good runner,” Drury said of Petrone. “He’s been running on people all year.
“I thought our defense gave up a little a few times, but when it came down to it, made some big stops,” added Drury.
Prior to the game, Southington honored its 21 seniorts, led by captains Eli Cullota (who had one of three SHS sacks against Glastonbury), Gio Chiulli, Beaudoin and Cardillo.