By KEN MORSE
The Plainville football team has raised the bar in each of the last two seasons under head coach Tim Shea. The Blue Devils went from 0-10 in 2016 to 5-5 to 6-4 last season. That has raised expectations for this fall.
Shea referred to each season as a step in the process. Judging by the results the team is trending in the right direction. Twice over the past two seasons, Plainville has gone on a four game winning-streak that marked the success of that process.
It won’t be easy to take the next step. The Blue Devils enter this fall with a stiff challenge, surviving the graduation of 13 senior veterans who helped to build a sturdy foundation, including four-year quarterback Frankie Griffin and four-year running back Brady Callahan.
“We did lose some big-name skill players in Griffin and Callahan,” said Shea in his fourth year at the helm. “Our offense may not look the same as it has over the past three years but our expectation for success has not changed.”
To counter worries about the loss of 13 seniors, Shea point fans to the fact that 11 sophomores earned varsity letters last season, and the Devils boast a solid core of 11 returning seniors. “So we are not going into the season empty handed,” said the coach.
“What I’m pleased about is we have almost our entire line back with Logan Caswell and Ty Pales, along with juniors Adrien Marcos and Dante Chambrello,” said Shea. “We will add junior Ryan Barker to the mix. It all starts up front with these guys.”
Mason Sarra (RB/K) and Fabi Laoz (RB/DB), like Caswell and Pales on the line, are the most experienced returning seniors. They’ll be joined by senior linebackers Dylan McVicker, Chris Cox and Isaiah Diaz, along with defensive backs Esteban Torres and Frank Rivera. The line will be anchored by seniors Adam Buckley and Alex Wynkoop.
Returning experience will be a key. Sarra is a four-year varsity player and will see a lot of carries out of the backfield along with 33 extra points and four field goals last season.
“These guys need to realize they are the ones in front of the room now,” Shea said about his veterans. “We did lose a lot to graduation, but that’s high school sports. It happens every year. Now it’s their turn. It’s the next man up.”
Even though he stepping in for a four-year starter, junior quarterback Christian Collin is no rookie. He’s been on the varsity roster since his freshman year. He was pressed into duty in the pocket when Griffin missed the first two games last year.
In his two starts, Collin went 4-for-7 passing for 53 yards, and he rushed 29 times for 218 yards and two touchdowns.
“Collin is a dynamic player, but that being said we are not looking to put the entire load on his shoulders,” said Shea. “He did get into action as a quarterback last year, and that will be a tremendous help in his development.”
Collin will be surrounded by a good core of skilled players a to share that responsibility. Junior Tanner Callahan (30 tackles, 1.5 sacks) will be the starting outside linebacker, but he will shoulder a lot of the offensive burden as the team’s halfback.
Plainville will also feature junior receivers Dylan Hall (23 catches, 288 yards) and Dom Chambrello (10 catches, 85 yards, one touchdown). First year player Javan Paradis (basketball) will add some height and speed at the receiver position.
“The last couple of years we have been close, but it all comes down to learning how to win,” said Shea. “We need to learn how to finish when we are ahead and learn to battle through it and play hard when we are behind, not giving up.”
Plainville begins the season on Friday, Sept. 13 at Tinty Stadium in Manchester for a 6:30 p.m. showdown with East Catholic.
“We are eager to show what we got and what we’ve learned over these past few seasons,” Shea said. “We are looking to come out on Friday nights, play hard, and give it our best shot. Hopefully that translates into a few more wins.”