SIMSBURY - There wasnâ€™t much for the New Britain football team to say as it walked back to its buses warming up in the parking lot in silence.
For about two and a half quarters on Friday, the Hurricanes, beleaguered by a tough start to the season, had found a way to compete with an undefeated Simsbury team better than anyone could have expected. And yet, it wasnâ€™t enough as they fell to 1-3 on the season, the postseason surely out of reach already.
For head coach Tebucky Jones, the reason New Britain was heading home with a loss was a pretty easy one to point out: â€śThe offense did enough to win. The defense did not.â€ť
It was an abrupt turnaround for a Hurricanes team that had struggled to score points the first three weeks of the season and match the production of the defense. Entering the matchup against Simsbury, New Britain had managed to score just four times when it held the football through 12 quarters of play.
That had changed, at least for a stretch on Friday night. Led by senior tailbacks Omary Payne and Tarik Hetmyer, the Hurricanes scored their highest point total of the season in the 33-22 loss and found ways to answer Trojan touchdowns with scores of their own.
Payne broke off touchdown runs of 86 and 64 yards in the second quarter to pull New Britain to 20-16 and four yards in the third to make it 26-22. He finished with 183 yards on the ground, while Hetmyer consistently helped moved the chains in a variety of ways. He ran for 81 yards, caught a 19-yard pass and threw for 42 yards.
â€śTo be honest, our O-line stepped up a lot in this game,â€ť Hetmyer said. â€śThey made the key blocks to get the running backs and me to where we needed to go.â€ť
But there are no moral victories in football, especially not for a head coach like Jones.
Instead, for all the good the offense was able to do - and there was still plenty of mistakes and miscues, such as a personal foul penalty late in the fourth quarter that moved the unit back from the 6-yard line on a potential go-ahead score - the defense, as Jones put it, wasnâ€™t able to do its part.
It became evident from Simsburyâ€™s first possession when the Trojans used 10 plays to go 66 yards that was capped off by a Brendan Gaffney 3-yard touchdown run. After that, Simsbury began to answer Payneâ€™s scores.
Trojan quarterback Aiden Boeshans used a 27-yard pass to Zack Gilbert to open up the teamâ€™s next drive. Two plays later, Boeshans powered his way through a number of New Britain defenders to score on a 16-yard touchdown run. Simsburyâ€™s signal caller scored again two minutes later on a 9-yard run set up by a 69-yard screen pass to Jeffery Coleman. Dan Sohnâ€™s 2-yard run in the fourth put the game away.
In the end, the Hurricanes couldnâ€™t stop the Trojansâ€™ three biggest playmakers in Gaffney, Boeshans and Sohn. All three took turns churning up big-yardage plays.
Boeshans finished the game 6-for-11 passing with 126 yards and an interception, while rushing 13 times for 84 yards. Sohn carried the ball 13 times for 127 yards and Gaffney rushed for 42 yards on nine carries, caught a 27-yard pass and finished with two touchdowns.
Through it all, New Britain knew who was getting the ball. It knew the plays. Nothing Simsbury did was all that surprising. They said so themselves afterward. What happened to a defense that had allowed just seven points over the past two weeks? It turns out it was something so elementary, that for a team that prides itself on defense, shouldnâ€™t have been as issue.
â€śWe missed a lot of tackles,â€ť Payne said. â€śWe need to start wrapping up and not reaching as much. We knew what they were going to run, when they were going to run. Now, we need to execute it like we do in practice.â€ť
Whenever it looked like the Hurricanes found a way to stop the Trojans, either Gaffney, Boeshans, Sohn or even Coleman found a way to shake off a would-be tackle and continue to run downfield. Simsbury only had to run seven third-down plays.
It was as simple as that.
â€śYou canâ€™t tackle, you canâ€™t win,â€ť Jones said. â€śThey broke a lot of tackles. They ran harder. Thatâ€™s it. Their will was higher than ours when they were on offense and we were on defense. When they ran the ball, they ran with the mindset of scoring and we couldnâ€™t stop it.
New Britainâ€™s buses left the parking lot a little shortly after that for the drive back to the high school giving them time to think about a game the Hurricanes certainly could have won. But as it prepares for Hall, which is coming off a tough loss of its own after falling to Southington 28-21 on Saturday, New Britain knows it will have to do the little things right to make sure it gets back in the win column.
For the Hurricanes, that means tackling on defense.
â€śWe have to make sure weâ€™re in the right spots going forward,â€ť Hetmyer said. â€śWe made too many mistakes. We need to make sure we tackle.â€ť
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org