By STEVE RUMan
With his team down by 10, and with injuries mounting, Southington football coach Ryan Slone simply wanted to get to halftime and regroup during a 20-minute break.
What he got was a 14-hour intermission, a re-energized team, and a 21-19 road win over Jackson-Milton to open the 2013 season.
Slone’s Wildcats were trailing 17-7 Friday when play had to be halted because the stadium lights failed to turn on.
The two teams returned to Jackson-Milton Saturday at 10 a.m. to complete the game.
The extended halftime proved to be a blessing for the Cats, who lost their starting center to an injury on Friday night. Both backup centers were injured, leaving the team with just three healthy linemen and no snapper.
“Our coaching staff went back to the school on Friday night, devised a game plan, then came back at 6:30 Saturday morning to shore some things up,” Slone said. “We ended up inserting a freshmen tight end at center who had never snapped in his life.
“The extra time gave our coaches a chance to figure out what to do, and it gave our kids a chance to regroup. With all the injuries, we had nearly every player going both ways.”
Quarterback Austin Casper completed 17 of 31 passes for 140 yards. Justin Len was on the receiving end of five of those passes for 105 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown reception with 32 seconds remaining to tie the game at 19-19.
“We’re down by 10, we’re banged up, and we’re asking our kids to come back at seven in the morning to finish a game,” Slone said. “For them to come back and play the way they did showed a ton of character.”
RECORD-BREAKING RED DRAGON
Niles senior Kyle Paden wasted no time working his way into the Red Dragons’ record books.
Making his debut as a starting quarterback, Paden set a single-game school record for most passing yards in Niles’ 38-19 win over Girard.
Paden threw for 358 yards, completing 25 of 36 passes. He threw for a pair of touchdowns and an interception.
Paden broke the mark of 327 yards, which was established by Zack Bailey in 2011.
“I had no idea what the record was, and I didn’t even have any clue what I had thrown for,” Paden said. “I thought I was around 250 when I came out of the game. Someone said I was up near 350, and I was shocked.”
“My line protected me all night, and my receivers were always open and making big plays. All I did was get the ball to them.”
Paden said the record was especially rewarding “because of the long tradition of Niles football.” He said he believes the record-setting night will help propel the Dragons to bigger and better things.
“The way we clicked, it really boosted our confidence and it showed us that we can accomplish some great things if we continue to work hard,” Paden said.
Three area teams finished the season 0-10 a year ago. Two of those teams — Salem and Sebring — picked up wins on Friday. Salem downed Liberty, 27-25, while Sebring won at Windham, 29-27.
Jackson-Milton’s loss to Southington extends the Blue Jays’ losing streak to 14 games, dating to 2011.
On the flipside, the two area teams which went 10-0 last year continued their winning ways.
Crestview won its 20th straight regular-season game by downing Beaver Local 36-7.
The Rebels haven’t lost in the regular season since Aug. 26, 2011 when they opened the campaign with a home loss to St. Clairsville. The Rebels also own a 14-game road winning streak, dating to the start of the 2010 season.
Brookfield owns the area’s second-longest regular-season winning streak. The Warriors won their 15th straight with a thrilling 30-27 home win against Springfield. Brookfield’s last regular-season loss occurred at Niles on Sept. 30, 2011.
The All American Conference American Division enjoyed opening-week success. Teams were 5-1, with Canfield logging the only loss.
The AAC National Division teams weren’t as fortunate. They were 1-5 in non-league play. Meanwhile, LaBrae defeated Jefferson in a rare Week 1 conference tilt.