Jeffrey Palmer provided stellar moment for PHS football

One of the most seminal events in Plainville’s sports history featured the giant-slaying exploits of a senior quarterback who filled the hearts of an entire community with uninhibited elation.
Jeffrey Palmer guided the Plainville High football team to two touchdowns in the final 3 minutes, 17 seconds to defeat Southington, 18-14, on Saturday, Nov. 27, 1971, cinching the Blue Devils’ first win over their neighboring nemesis in 23 years.
For those who were among the estimated 5,500 at Southington’s field, the following will serve as a gleaming memory. For those yet unborn or too young to remember, settle in for a virtual history tour with the eloquent Plainville News scribe Matt Buckler as your guide.
Southington led 14-6 with 10:23 to go when Palmer steered the Devils 68 yards in 19 plays, a drive that consumed more than seven minutes. It culminated with Palmer pushing into the end zone from a yard out. The defense forced a Southington punt. Palmer connected with Vet Mason Jr. for a 32-yard touchdown with 1:16 left to set off a celebration that Buckler documented in the following manner.
“It was like it was raining 100 dollar bills. It was like Christmas in November. It was an impossible dream-come-true. It seemed like the entire town of Plainville was out on the field Saturday after the biggest game of the year, congratulating their heroes in white football uniforms, trying to drink up the atmosphere, perhaps running an instant replay of the final moments of the game in their minds.”
Southington, on the verge of the first losing season in its 20-year history (it was previously called Lewis High School), subsequently drove to the Plainville eight, but couldn’t stop the clock. A sack by defensive end Joe Majsak secured the victory.
“I kept throwing ‘outs’ to our tight end Jay Buckler (Matt’s brother),” Palmer said. “Jay and Vet never dropped a pass. Jay was MVP of that game. He never came off the field. To think of it now, I never thought about anything but execute, execute, execute. Thankfully at the end, Majsak made almost the biggest play in the history of the school.”
Palmer’s father, the late PHS athletic director Charlie Palmer, remains foremost in his thoughts when he recounts the day.
“One of the most memorable moments was when my father ran on the field and ripped my jersey off my back,” Jeff said. “I was so fortunate to be around [PHS sports and my father] when I was a kid. I was his shadow. Anything he did I wanted to do. Wherever he went I wanted to go. He was a phenomenal man.”
The Plainville News addressed the event this way: A Miracle Happened at 3:42 on Saturday.
“One simple football game seemed to bring one entire town together with everyone having one thing in common, that they beat Southington,” Matt Buckler wrote. “One simple football game seemed to give the entire town a shot in the arm.”
The glorious return to town after the game stirred Matt Buckler’s creative talents. 
“It was like William the Conqueror or Julius Caesar coming home after a battle as the boys moved into the center of town, the town which the members of the football team now owned.”
Palmer, called “the best quarterback in the state” by his coach Jim Lynch, went 10-for-20 for 124 yards, but his fourth-quarter numbers are more defining: 7-for-10, 113 yards.
Mason ran 28 times for 102 yards. The last time Plainville had beaten Southington was in 1948 when his father Vet Sr. scored the winning touchdown.
“Jeff was a three-sport, four-year standout with the physical attributes and competitive presence second to none,” Mason Jr. wrote in nominating his ex-teammate for enshrinement. “He was a fiery team leader, exuding confidence and poise in the heat of competition.”
Jeff’s memories also center on a fellow tri-captain, whose life ended prematurely. Jerry Vincenti and his girlfriend tragically were asphyxiated in an idling vehicle.
“When we beat Southington, I wanted to win it for me, and I was happy to do it for my father and our family, but we gave the game ball to the Vincenti family,” Jeff said. “He was a very good friend and a great ballplayer.”
Palmer, a three-year varsity starter, also played defensive back. He was quarterback of the Class B-C All-State Team in 1971. He completed 71 passes in 131 attempts for 1,216 yards and 18 touchdowns. He and Mason were chosen to play for the East team in the 1972 Nutmeg Bowl at Kennedy Stadium in Bridgeport.
He went on to attend Milford Academy, where his achievements led to his being inducted in the prep school’s hall of fame in June. He earned a scholarship to play at the University of Miami.
He was a two-way choice for the 1971 All-Central Valley Conference and quarterback on the All-Hartford Suburban team. He was also a three-year varsity participant as a defensive-minded forward on the basketball team and a catcher for the baseball team, but that grey day in November will always stand as Palmer’s legacy.
“Football is only a kids’ game,” wrote Bucker, “and most of the people in the world have never even heard of it, but one rainy November evening, it seemed as a catalyst to give the entire town of Plainville an identity.”
Palmer lives in Mystic and is married to NBC-TV 30 news anchor Lisa Carberg.

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