Win or lose today, the Plainville High football team has enjoyed a highly successful season.
Coming off a dismal 2016 in which they not only went winless, but were badly outscored in nearly every game, the Blue Devils have come back to win five of their first nine games this year and are assured of finishing with at least a .500 record.
Yet in the week leading up to this morning’s seventh annual Olde Canal Cup contest at home against Farmington (10 a.m.), Plainville’s players and head coach made it clear that winning on Thanksgiving Day is all-important.
“It means more than anything to me, to be honest,” senior Ben Root said. “This is basically all I know. These guys are my brothers. I look up to the coaches, every single one of them. I love every guy on this team. It means so much to me to go out on top with these guys.”
Junior quarterback Frank Griffin concurred.
“It’s our biggest game of the year, especially with the momentum we have right now,” he said. “Everybody wants the cup in Plainville, so that’s always the plan, to get it back here.”
Plainville head coach Tim Shea said that having grown up in Connecticut, he’s long been familiar with how important annual Thanksgiving Day rivalries are.
“I know what Thanksgiving football means. I’ve been going to Thanksgiving games since I was five years old,” he said. “It’s always special being able to coach in these type of games, because this is like the big point of the season. … This is what you’re going to remember.”
Farmington enters the game with a 2-7 record, while Plainville (5-4) is riding a four-game winning streak since its midseason bye week.
Yet the Blue Devils are taking nothing for granted.
“That’s why Thanksgiving football’s great. Records are out the window, everybody’s familiar with what everybody’s doing,” Shea said. “It’s like who wants it just that much more on that day usually comes out on top.”
He added, “I think Farmington’s pretty good. They’re a lot better than their record shows.”
In order to win, Plainville will need to stop the run and play mistake-free football on offense, Shea said.
“I like what Farmington does on offense, and their defense, they come hard. They play aggressive,” he said. “Their linebackers are pretty good. They get a good push up front. Skill guys, their running back runs hard, I like their wide receiver. They’re a pretty good team.”
Yet Plainville has also established itself as a team to watch out for.
“The kids are playing hard right now. There’s no quit in us,” Shea said. “The kids play hard. They got that thing, that little belief in the back of their mind where no matter what’s going on in the game, they feel in the end they have a chance to come out on top.”
Also, the Blue Devils have gotten used to winning close games over the second half of the season, “so hopefully that carries over to this one, too,” Shea said.
“We’ve had a good week of practice so far,” he said. “The kids are pretty on task, on point. They know what’s ahead of them, and I’m sure there some goals that they want to achieve [today], and hopefully we can. It’s not going to be easy. None of our games have been easy.”
Griffin added, “Coming off four wins, we’ve never been so pumped for a game before.”
The Thanksgiving Day game is important for many reasons. For the seniors, it’s their chance to wrap up their time with the program on a happy note.
“This is one of those games that you always talk about,” even years from now, Shea said.
“This is a special time of year. I love Thanksgiving football,” he added. “This is fun. This is my favorite week of the year in high school football, and I think for the kids it is, too.”
For Root, a victory would have special meaning.
“A lot of hard work, a lot of dedication from everybody around me,” he said. “All levels of the program, from the freshmen to the coaches, everybody had the same mind set, and it’s a winning mind set. I’m just happy we’re bringing it together before it all ended for me.”
Griffin said a victory today could resonate into the future.
“This year, after our last season, we played people and people thought they were going to come in here and just beat us, just like that,” he said, “so with this momentum that we have and all these wins, it’ll show people that Plainville’s on the map and we’re coming.”
Paul Angilly can be reached at 860-973-1800, or firstname.lastname@example.org