It was just four plays into the Blue Devils Class S football quarterfinal matchup with Bullard Havens last Wednesday, and the game was already turning sideways. Devils star Christian Collin fumbled on the second play of the game, and two plays later the No. 2 seeded Tigers (10-0) completed a 43-yard pass deep into Plainville’s red zone.
Coaches talk about making more plays than the other team as the key to success. In a game that features about 50 to 60 plays, sometimes it takes just one play to turn everything around. Like they’ve done all season, Plainville turned to its defense.
“Our defense has been a kind of bend-but-don’t-break unit all year,” said Plainville head coach Tim Shea. “The kids have that belief, and it certainly makes my job a lot easier knowing they will make the plays that need to.”
Bullard Havens threw a pass to the back of the end zone, and Dom Chambrello stopped them flat with a drive-ending interception. That broke the spell, and the No. 7 Blue Devils (8-2) took off from there.
Plainville went on to make school history with the program’s first postseason victory, a 22-12 win over the Tigers. With the win, Plainville advanced to the semifinals to face top-ranked Bloomfield (10-0) on Monday after we went to press.
“We just came out and played with a lot of heart,” Collin said about the first round victory. “We never give up on any play. We gained a lot of experience this season coming back from adversity and after that fumble we just focused on making plays on defense and managed to come up with a turnover of our own and get the ball back.”
Bullard Havens still managed to put the first points on the board, using a reverse to open up some room for Jalen Diabate to haul in a pass from Marcus Johnson. The 72-yard touchdown play gave Bullard Havens a 6-0 lead with 7:55 left in the second quarter.
Plainville quickly answered. On the next possession, Collin more than made up for the early mistake, completing a six-play, 63-yard drive that culminated in his 25 yard run into the end zone. Collin added the two-point conversion, and Plainville took an 8-6 advantage into halftime.
“We knew offensively that we were going to get it going,” said Shea. “It all begins up front with the O-line. It’s that hardest position to play because there are five of them. and they need to play as a unit.”
The undefeated Tigers came into the contest with an offense that averaged 496 yards per game and 38 points per game. Quarterback Cotto was averaging 196 yards passing and threw for 25 touchdowns on the season but was held to just five completions and 88 yards with two interceptions.
Running back Deontray Eaddy—with 1,200 rushing yards on the season—was held to just 33 yards. The Plainville defense, led by Ty Pales, Alex Santini and Dylan Hall, allowed just 217 yards of offense and came away with two turnovers.
At the end of the third quarter, Collin (25 rushes for 147 yards) took off on a 43 yard touchdown scamper and the two-point conversion upped the advantage at 16-6 with 2:20 left in the quarter.
The Tigers tried to get right back in it after a long kick-off return that had them on the Plainville side of the field. Once again the defense rose to the occasion and Tanner Callahan came up with an interception to take a little steam out of Bullard Havens.
Beau Lasher (16 carries for 97 yards), Javan Paradis (3 catches for 24 yards) and Collin kept moving the ball for the Blue Devils. After the defense stopped the Tigers on downs Collin put the game away scoring his third touchdown of the game with 3:05 left on a six-yard dive to open up a 22-6 lead.
“It all starts up front with our offensive line,” said Collin. “They have been getting the job done for us all year and they are the reason why we are here in the playoffs.”
“It does show that with hard work you can accomplish your goals,” said Shea. “We are four years into this and we are moving in the right direction. I’m proud of these guys.”
Bullard Haven closed the gap with 1:12 to go on a Cotto 1-yard plunge for the 22-12 final margin. Plainville will now take on a Bloomfield team that won the first goaround this season by a convincing, 47-0 margin. The Blue Devils are looking for a much different outcome this time around.