When I joined the Southington Observer’s sports desk in the middle of the fall season, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But what I never expected was the amount of excitement and success I have already witnessed in two months.
I grew up and graduated from high school just 20 minutes away, in Naugatuck, a town that is deeply invested in their sports programs. Their football program is a part of one of the oldest Thanksgiving rivalries in the history of Connecticut sports.
In my junior year at Naugatuck, our baseball team came one game from playing Southington in the semifinals of the Class LL tournament. That year turned out to be the second straight season the Blue Knights squared off against Amity in the state final.
I also always heard about the success of Southington football and softball, but other than that, I wasn’t quite sure what sports was like in Southington. However, after two months here at the Observer, I am certain of one thing: I always thought I grew up in a sports town until I came to Southington.
My transition into this new position could not have been easier with the countless number of amazing stories I covered in the fall season alone. I witnessed seven of the eight varsity programs advance to the postseason.
I saw two cross country runners become just the second and third girls in the program’s history to qualify for the New England championship meet. Just a few weeks later, I saw the girls soccer team advance to the Class LL finals for the first time since 2003.
But the excitement didn’t stop there.
On Thanksgiving, I covered a double-overtime thriller between Southington football and Cheshire, ending with a Southington defensive stop on a two-point try at the one-yard line to win the game, 21-20.
While football’s season didn’t end with a state championship (by the way, what a story in Newtown), they advanced to the state semifinals for the third time in five years. They also defeated Simsbury, who was ranked fourth in Class LL this season, by 28 points in the regular season.
I also covered a girls volleyball team that went 9-9 this season in one of the best conferences in the state, and also advanced to the second round of the Class LL tournament. This was considered a disappointing season by Southington volleyball standards, but not by me.
Just to put that in perspective, Naugatuck volleyball has gone over .500 in each of the past five seasons but never made it past the second round of the Class LL tournament. This season, they won the Naugatuck Valley League title and received a first round bye. But they lost in the second round to Central Connecticut Conference’s Platt.
The NVL is comprised of 16 teams, which is just over half the teams that Southington competes against in the CCC across all sports.
Comparing Naugatuck to Southington is like pitting a Triple-A team against a team in the majors. Of course, there’s probably be a Southington player on that team in the majors.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at SDreher@SouthingtonObserver.com.