By KEN MORSE
For the first time this season, the Plainville Blue Devils had their two senior captains lined up in the backfield and that was a clear indication that the football team is back in business.
It has been an arduous trek for the Blue and White navigating their way through the first five weeks of the season suffering two blow out losses and then leaving one on the table two weeks ago against RHAM.
“We were fortunate to have the bye week when we did,” said Plainville head coach Tim Shea. “It allowed us to get healthy and have some guys come back and we were able to work on some things and fix some of the mistakes we have been making.”
The 2-3 Blue Devils entered Tinty Stadium last Friday after the bye week looking to get back to business in front of a packed house celebrating Homecoming weekend. Armed with senior captains Frankie Griffin and Brady Callahan, Plainville got back into the win column earning a tough 19-7 win over Northwest Catholic.
“It was good to get back out there,” said Callahan who has been out since the season opener with an ankle injury. “I was just patiently waiting and getting better each week and it felt good to get out there and help us get back in the win column.”
Callahan did get a couple of touches on offense running the ball three times and catching a pass, but he definitely made his presence felt as the safety on the defensive unit.
“This is probably the first time we’ve had our whole team back since the preseason,” said Shea. “We came out and took advantage of the early turnover and the defense really stepped up.”
After surrendering 32 points in the second half that saw a 24-0 lead dissipate in the loss to RHAM, the defense needed to come out and make a statement. That statement was made on just the second play of the game when Sam Lestini came out of a pile with the ball and the fumble recovery set up the Blue Devils at the Lions 34 yard line.
Griffin converted a third down pass to Christian Collin for a 20 yard pass play setting up a first and goal. Griffin lowered the boom running through a defender sending his opponents helmet tumbling into the end zone.
Mason Sarra drove the extra point through the uprights for a 7-0 Plainville advantage just two and a half minutes into the contest. It was then up to the defense to make it stand up.
“The bye week really helps you to regain your focus,” said Griffin. “Last year after the bye week we won four straight. We fixed some of our mistakes.”
“We made some mistakes in this game but that’s football when you are going all out trying to make something happen. But we are ready to go in the second half one game at a time.”
The three man front of Mike McGinley, Ty Pales and Lestini created the pressure up front. The quick hitting line backing core of Jason Mills, Tanner Callahan, and Sarra slowed down the Lions running attack forcing a punt.
Griffin (12 of 16 for 194 yards) had the time to find his receivers down field completing passes to Dylan Hall (3 for 22 yards), Dom Chambrello, Marcos Gutierrez and Brady Callahan but it was the big play option of Collin (6 catches, 140 yards) that got the Blue Devils going.
The Lions defense was just as tough stopping the run resulting in a punt and a loss of downs for Plainville. Northwest Catholic changed things up going to the air testing the defensive backfield of the Blue Devils.
Cornerbacks Brendan Quilter, Alex Hernandez, and Hall teamed up with Collin to try and slow down the Lions approach. Connor Rich converted two third down passes and ran on fourth down to move the chains.
Northwest Catholic drove 67 yards in 11 plays and they were back in the ball game after a Rich to Josh Sidoti nine yard touchdown strike tied the game at 7-7 with 6:18 to go in the first half.
Plainville had seen enough adversity this season to not let that change in momentum stand in their way. On the ensuing kick off Fabi Laoz cut to the sidelines and out raced the pursuit taking it 70 yards to the house as the Plainville fans erupted in cheers with the Blue Devils going into the half holding a 13-7 lead.
The Plainville defense shut down the Lions in the second half forcing two punts and twice taking over on downs. With the game still hanging in the balance at 10:49 to go Griffin rolled out of the pocket and fired a strike to Collin who took off down field going 73 yards for the clincher to up the lead to 19-7.
The Lions never got back on track as the Blue Devils defense made it stand up with Plainville improving to 3-3 on the season. The hopes of a playoff spot may have been dashed by the recent two game skid however last season in Class M Jonathan Law of Milford snuck into the post season with a 6-4 record and two teams, Barlow and SMSA got in with 7-3 marks, so anything can happen.
The Blue Devils have reached the state playoffs twice in 1997 going 9-1 and the last time was in 2010 with an 8-2 record. Before Plainville can entertain the possibility of a post season appearance in Class S, they will need to take care of business and they took a step in that direction in the win over Northwest Catholic.
“We need to stay focused and continue to play the entire 48 minutes,” said Shea. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We just need to take it one game at a time.”
Next up for the Blue Devils is a battle with 3-3 East Catholic on Friday in Manchester. Plainville will return home next week to take on Tolland with Avon to follow before the have a Turkey Day showdown at Farmington.