GLASONBURY — Get ready for a season of firsts for the Southington football team. A pandemic that wiped out the 2020 CIAC football season made sure of that.
As with the majority of Connecticut teams, most Southington seniors are playing their first varsity football games as starters.
Juniors, too, are thrust into starting roles, and more than a few are getting their first taste of football ahead of schedule.
Then there are sophomores like Evan Anderson.
There were no freshman or JV football seasons last year, either. That means the first time Anderson put on a Southington High School football jersey was last week as a varsity wide receiver.
This past Friday night, Anderson made his first high school catch. It came in the end zone.
His second? Another touchdown from 28 yards out that saw him break four tackles en route to the end zone.
As first impressions go, Anderson certainly made one in 6th-ranked Southington’s 28-7 victory over Glastonbury.
“Evan is a dynamic player,” Southington head coach Mike Drury said. “We know what he can do. When he gets in there, and when he gets the ball in his hands, he usually has the opportunity to shine.
“He’s a tremendous athlete,” Drury continued. “He’s a tough kid and hard worker.”
The baby-faced Anderson is also a young sophomore. He’s still just 14, playing alongside and against kids 17 and even 18 years old.
But playing “up,” as they say, is nothing new for Anderson, and not just in football.
When he was 10, Anderson was already among the top pitchers and hitters at Southington’s Western Little League. By the time he was 12, he was leading the league’s All-Star Team to the distrct tournament.
“I expect to make plays, even though I’m playing against a lot of older people,” Anderson said.
The younger of two Andersons on the 2021 Blue Knights — older brother Gavin is also playing his first varsity season as a senior wideout and defensive back — Evan has come onto the varsity scene with plenty of advanced billing.
“Gavin and Evan are different people, but similar also. Both are very tough-minded individuals,” said Drury, who has seen Gavin grow as a player since he was a sophomore on the JV team.
“I just try to teach everything I know to my brother,” Gavin Anderson said. “He’s a great athlete, so it’s just awesome to play with him.”
As for Evan? Unassuming is one way to describe the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder. Another would be downright shy.
But he agrees with his brother when it comes to playing together.
“It’s just awesome to line up together,” Evan said. “It’s amazing to have him out there with me.”
Barnum, who himself was playing in just his second game as Southington’s starting varsity quarterback, certainly didn’t mince words when it came to the younger Anderson’s breakout performance on Friday.
“He’s a play-maker; that’s the words I’m going to use to describe him,” Barnum said. “He is going to be one heck of a football player. He already is.
“He’s shown a lot of courage to come out here and play with dudes two years older than him,” Barnum continued. “At practice, we push him really hard. We want to make him comfortable as he can be, because he’s a natural athlete.
“We want him to be another in Southington’s long line of great wide receivers. We are going to use him to his full potential.”
There is something Barnum and Anderson also share other than a connection on offense. Both are special team players. Barnum is the kicker, Anderson the punter.
Anderson was arguably Southington best weapon in its opener against Maloney without catching a pass. He routinely boomed punts — seven of them in all — that pinned Maloney deep or changed field position.
Barnum’s leg, meanwhile, hasn’t been needed yet, though on Friday night he made what would have been a 43-yard field if not for an illegal motion penalty on Southington.
Pushed back five yards, all Drury did was trot Barnum back out there. Barnum booted the ball plenty long, but just missed the 48-yarder wide right.
By then, however, Southington’s re-energized offense was up 21-7 and Anderson had found the end zone twice. Before Barnum found Anderson via the air, the Blue Knights had already dominated on the ground, which opened up the passing game.
Lincoln Cardillo, another Southington junior playing a significant role in his first varsity season, ran for a team-high 153 yards as Southington amassed 254 yards on the ground against Glastonbury.
John Flynn, yet another sophomore wideout, caught a pair of passes for 51 yards.
In all, the Southington offense rolled up 240 yards in the first half and built a 21-7 lead by halftime. Southington finished with 388 yards of total offense.
It was a contrast to a week ago, when Southington struggled on offense from the opening kickoff. The Blue Knights failed to get a first down and managed just 36 yards of offense through the first 24 minutes against Maloney.
Down 7-0 at halftime, Southington eventually won its opener 13-7 on a Barnum touchdown pass to Ryan DelMonte with 1:14 to play.
There would be no need for such dramatics in Glastonbury. Southington led all the way.
“We figured it out, for sure,” Barnum said after Friday’s win. “I think last week was more of us feeling things out. This week we went to work.”
“We got a lot of young guys out there who are getting experience and will just get better each week,” Drury said. “They are learning the game of football. It’s good for them to see live action. I liked the way our guys were out there just making plays.
“Hey, kids will be kids,” Drury added.
After Friday night, it looks like Southington’s kids will be all right.