HEBRON - After winning four of the final five games last season and finishing with a 5-5 record there were higher expectations entering the season than in years past for the Plainville football team.
The five wins were more than the school had the previous two years combined and with starting quarterback Frank Griffin and dynamic playmaker Brady Callahan back, this year was set to be a strong one.
Then injuries and illness struck Plainville.
Nine plays into the season-opening loss against Bloomfield, Callahan went down with a broken ankle and has yet to return to the field. It’s been a big loss for Plainville.
“He’s a good player for us and he’s our heartbeat too,” Blue Devils head coach Tim Shea said. “But other guys have stepped in and stepped up.
Griffin also missed time with an illness.
With the two seniors missing time, it was a chance for the Blue Devils to see what it had out of the other players.
“We’ve won games without [Brady] and won a game without Frank as well. It’s the mentality,” Shea said. “We’re trying to get the kids to get in the ‘next-man-up’ mentality and be accountable. That’s what we talk about every day.”
Two specific players that have stepped up have been Christian Collin and Dylan Hall.
The two sophomores have filled in and given Plainville some key playmakers on the field and, in the team’s 32-24 loss against RHAM on Saturday, were a big reason the Blue Devils had a 24-0 lead.
Collin had a huge first half - both offensively and defensively - against the Sachems. He returned a fumble 22 yards for a touchdown on the defensive end of the field and recovered two additional fumbles to set the Blue Devils up with chances to score, which they did three times.
Offensively, Collin’s ability to run and catch the ball was on display as he lined up in the backfield and at the wide receiver spot as a hybrid-type player for Plainville. Collin finished with 93 yards receiving.
“We expect it out of him and the other thing is he’s only a sophomore,” Shea said. “We got a lot of things that go through him now and he’s had to step up even more just like everybody else. We’ve got a lot of young kids out there.”
Hall took longer to get going, but once he did, he was hard to stop for RHAM.
His ability to make plays and critical moments of the game was shown on Plainville’s final two drives of the afternoon.
On a 3rd-and-11, trailing RHAM 32-24 and under seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Hall made four catches the rest of the way on the two possessions.
Those catches went for chunk plays too as Hall made grabs of 18, 9, 30 and 25 yards. The biggest and probably most important was the 30-yard grab when Plainville was on its own 3-yard line and under 2:30 to go in the game. Hall flashed his ability to pick up yards after the catch as he shook a RHAM defender and ran down the field to get his team out of its own end zone area.
Both Hall and Collin have Plainville set up for not only this year but also moving forward.
“The future is going to be bright but we just got to get there,” Shea said. “The young kids are playing well, we’ve run into some good teams and it’s football, we wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com