Conard faced Southington in the Class LL football quarterfinals, but lost to the top-ranked Blue Knights 48-6.
By Ronni Newton. Photos by Andrew Stabnick, Low Tide Photography (lowtidephoto.com)
Conard head coach Matt Cersosimo is proud that his team earned the right to be in the Class LL playoffs, and he and the other coaches are very proud of the Chieftain’s performance this season.
But nothing Conard tried Tuesday night could stop the Blue Knights.
Conard’s season ended Tuesday on a cold and rainy night in Southington, with the Blue Knights scoring early and often, putting up 21 points in the first quarter alone, before cruising to a 48-6 victory over Conard at Fontana Field.
Reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2011, after a 4-6 season in 2014, was the silver lining for the Chieftains, Cersosimo said.
“We came into this game saying you know what, we’ve got nothing to lose. We can only take a step forward and that step forward is being here and giving our young guys a taste of what it’s like to be in the playoffs and sending our seniors off with the first team in their career here to be in the playoffs,” Cersosimo said.
Conard faced Southington at home earlier in the season, with the Blue Knights winning that contest 53-25, one of only two losses for Conard during the regular season.
“I think that we’ve done all we could throughout the season, but you run into a buzz saw team. I don’t care what happened to them last week against Cheshire, they are a phenomenal team.”
The Blue Knights’ buzz saw was led by UConn-bound quarterback Jasen Rose, whose 58-yard run on the third play of the game put Southington up 7-0 with 10:38 left in the first quarter. Rose ran 56 yards to cross the goal line and the Blue Knights were up 14-0 with 4:05 left in the first.
Alessio Diana contributed the quarter’s third touchdown, on a 9-yard run with 1:42 remaining. Diana continued motoring in the second quarter, with a 38-yard run to push the score to 28-0.
Rose, who led the Blue Knights to their 31st straight victory with a total of five touchdowns, connected with Austin Morin on a 22-yard pass in the second quarter and ran for 3 with 1:33 left in the half, and the teams headed to the locker room for halftime with Southington up 41-0.
“He’s not going to UConn for nothing. He’s as good a player as they get in this state,” Cersosimo said of Rose.
“You love having a player like that … he makes the plays,” Southington head coach Mike Drury said.
Conard came out fighting after the half, with quarterback Declan Flaherty and school record-holder Nate Richam combining for an 11-play, 75-yard drive, assisted by a 15-yard penalty, that finished with Flaherty’s 12-yard touchdown run.
Rose added his fifth TD, a 55-yard run with just over 7 minutes left in the quarter. With the score at 48-6, Southington coach replaced Rose and other starters to finish off the game.
“Our plan was to establish a run and we didn’t get to do that,” Cersosimo said. “Kudos to them. They’re an awesome team, well coached. They’re peaking at the right time.”
“We talked about what it would take to win a playoff game, and one of the main ones was win the battle in the trenches,” Drury said. “Those guys set the tone.”
Cersosimo said he will thank the seniors for taking the team from last year’s 4-6 record to win 8 games and a trip to the playoffs this year. “They’ll look back at this years from now and realize that they got our program back in the right direction.”
Southington will face Darien on Monday night at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk in a Class LL semifinal game.
For a complete gallery of photos from the game, click here for Low Tide Photography’s website.
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