BRIDGEPORT - The seventh-seeded Plainville football team did not seem to have much time to celebrate earning its first-ever postseason win Wednesday night after dispatching second-seeded Bullard Havens Tech 22-12 in the quarterfinal of the Class S tournament.
The players were calm as they hustled across the Kennedy Stadium field in the crisp air to gather their equipment. With a seat on the hour-long bus ride back to Plainville ahead of them, they had plenty of time take pride in the effort they put forward, specifically on defense.
“Our defense has helped us in most of our games,” junior Dominick Chambrello said. “It’s just our backbone for our whole team.”
Plainville had only run two offensive plays when the Tigers nearly opened the scoring early in the first quarter of Wednesday night’s matchup, only for the Blue Devils’ opportunistic defense to come away with the first of its two takeaways.
Plainville quarterback Christian Collin fumbled on his team’s first drive of the game and after a 43-yard pass from Cyrus Cotto to Marcus Johnson, Bullard Havens Tech was in the red zone.
A holding penalty put the Tigers on the Plainville 19-yard line and they had their sights set on scoring until Chambrello took the ball back with an interception in the back of the end zone and kept the Tigers off the scoreboard.
The Blue Devils picked off Cotto for the second time at the end of third quarter after getting an early-insurance touchdown on a 43-yard run from Collin to extend the team’s lead to 16-6.
After a big kickoff return started the Tigers near Plainville territory and a 14-yard play to open the drive put them across the 50-yard line, the Blue Devils intercepted Cotto’s first pass of the possession to stop Bullard Havens Tech’s momentum before it could cut Plainville’s lead to single digits.
“It comes down to the team that can make the least amount of mistakes and turnovers, and those who can capitalize on the ones they made,” said head coach Tim Shea, whose team scored 22 unanswered points over the course of the second, third and fourth quarters on three Collin touchdown runs. “We were able to capitalize a few more times than they were and we came out on top.”
Cotto was held to 88 passing yards and completed only five passes. He came in averaging 195 passing yards per game and compiled 25 touchdowns in the regular season. Running back and 1,200-yard rusher Deontray Eaddy was shut down with just 33 yards on the ground. Overall, the Tigers finished with just 217 yards, well below their average of 496 yards entering the playoffs. They also came in averaging 38.7 points per game.
The performance, meanwhile, continued Plainville’s trend of being stingy on defense this season. The Blue Devils have only allowed more than 21 points in one game this season - a 47-0 loss to Bloomfield - and held four opponents to single-digits.
If there was something Shea and the defensive unit didn’t like, it was the big plays Bullard Havens Tech was able to get on Plainville, specifically the ones that led to points.
As the game remained scoreless for more than four minutes into the second quarter, he Tigers ran a reverse for wide receiver Johnson and he found Jalen Diabate deep downfield for a 72-yard touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, there was the 36-yard pass from Cotto to Dylan Wilson, who out-jumped a pair of Plainville defensive backs who misread the Cotto’s throw. The Blue Devils were fortunate enough to stop Wilson before he reached paydirt. That play, however, set up a 1-yard touchdown run at the end of the game and kept Plainville from another single-digit effort.
“We have to finish plays,” Shea said. “We have to get to the quarterback. They have a lot of great athletes. They made two tremendous plays, the first touchdown and the big catch [at the end], so we had to pick and choose our spots and we made a few more plays than they did which allowed us to come out on top.”
Plainville will certainly need to pick its spots wisely on Monday when a rematch with Bloomfield awaits in the semifinals. The fewest amount of points the Warhawks were held to in a game this season was 40 against Glastonbury. The most they scored was 74 against the Bulkeley/HMTCA/Weaver co-op. Overall, Bloomfield is averaging 50.3 points per game this season behind quarterback Daron Bryden and running back /receiver Anthony Simpson.
Bryden is completing 70.6 percent of his passes for 2,861 yards, 36 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Simpson is having a 1,000-1,000 season with 1,043 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns to go along with his 1,023 and 23 scores on the ground.
“[On the one at the end] I would have liked to see them try and hit it down,” Shea said of that Bullard Havens Tech pass at the end of the game. “These some things we have to clean up because of who we have next with Bloomfield they are a very, very, very good football team. We have our work cut out for us but we’re going to go back to work [Thursday].”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org