By KEN MORSE
Last Friday at Tinty Stadium a capacity crowd was on hand for homecoming week, and the Blue Devils (4-1) were fired up to take on the Berlin Redcoats (4-1). Plainville made another sterling comeback, but time ran out when Berlin scored a last second touchdown to escape with a 20-13 win.
“Berlin made a few more plays than we did,” said Plainville head coach Tim Shea. “That’s the game of football. They made enough plays to win, and that’s the bottom line.”
There hasn’t been this much excitement at Alumni Field in Plainville in quite a few years. But this year’s Devils are the talk of the town as head coach Tim Shea and his staff have the football team on the brink of a postseason return for the first time since 2010 and only the third time in the school’s history.
That excitement reached a fevered pitch two weeks ago when Plainville stunned Tolland, coming back from a 16-8 deficit to score two touchdowns in the final minutes of the game in a 22-16 win.
The Devils have come a long way in a short period of time under Shea. The program started out 0-10 four seasons ago. Now this team is showing the ability to pull victory from the jaws of defeat and that has created a belief that is hard to deny.
“The game is 48 minutes,” said Shea. “Last week it took us 48 minutes to win, and this week Berlin used the entire 48 minutes. I’m proud of the way we fought back and gave ourselves a chance.”
Just about that time when the familiar ‘oh no’ feeling began to hover over the crowd with 9 minutes to play and Berlin holding a 13-0 lead. The Devils flipped the switch and kicked into gear and for the second week in a row.
After losing their senior captain Mason Sarra to a season ending injury the week before, his replacement junior running back Beau Lasher was helped off the field.
“Anytime you lose a senior, it’s his last year. You feel bad for the kid,” said Shea. “Mason was a big reason why we got off to such a good start. He’s a smart kid, and he’s got a plan moving forward.”
Things didn’t look promising at that point, but that’s when junior quarterback Christian Collin darted left and circled right in an attempt to escape the Berlin defense in the backfield. Just as he was about to get sacked, Collins found a seam and made his way to the sideline then out raced the pursuit 43 yards for a touchdown.
The roar from the crowd was electric, but that was just a preview of coming attractions.
On the Redcoats’ next possession, Berlin was marching down the field and reached the Plainville 29-yard line. That’s when senior Fabi Laoz stepped in front of a pass and took it 71 yards to the house as pandemonium broke out along the blue and white sidelines. Sophomore Dylan Brewer booted the extra point through the uprights to tie the game, 13-13, with 6:27 to play.
Berlin was pushing their way up and down Alumni Field behind a powerful offensive line, rushing for 230 yards. Quarterback Justin Skates passed for 255 yards, but the Plainville defense when called upon came up huge time and time again stopping the Redcoats on downs four times.
Linebackers Tanner Callahan, Dominick Chambrello, Esteban Torres and Dylan Hall made the stops that caused Berlin to punt three times.
In the trenches Ty Pales, Ryan Barker and Logan Caswell, teamed up with Adrien Marcos, Dante Chambrello and Bhavya Patel for the Devils biggest stop of the game holding out Berlin on a first and goal from the Plainville four yard line at the end of the third quarter.
Collin (15 carries for 113 yards, 4 of 15 passing for 39 yards) and Lasher (9 carries for 44 yards) along with Dylan Hall (2 catches for 25 yards) led the Devils on a ten play drive and even though it resulted in a punt it kept the Redcoats from sealing the deal.
Berlin took a 7-0 lead on its second drive of the game when John McGeever went in from two yards out. The Redcoats saw a touchdown come off the board right before the first half ended when after a long discussion by the referees an illegal forward pass was called creating a heated argument along the Berlin sideline.
Elijah Crowley banged one in from 14 yards out on the Redcoats first drive of the second half and the 13-0 score stood until the Devils heroics in the final quarter.
After Plainville tied the game at 13-13 the defense did it again stopping Berlin on another fourth and goal. The Devils had the ball with a chance to pull it out but the drive stalled giving the ball back to the Redcoats.
With just 39 seconds to play McGeever found an opening on a four yard blast to put Berlin back on top 20-13. Plainville got the ball back but time ran out on the Devils.
Plainville now at 4-2 is still very much in the hunt ranked 12th in Class S and will be back at it this week on the road at Rocky Hill.