FARMINGTON - Heading into Wednesday nightâs season-ending Olde Canal Cup battle against Farmington, Plainville High coach Tim Shea said that in order to win, the Blue Devils would have to minimize penalties, block and tackle.
âItâs going to be who capitalizes on everybody elseâs mistakes and who makes fewer of them,â he had said.
Unfortunately for Plainville, that battle, and the game, went Farmingtonâs way as the Indians hoisted the Cup for the fourth straight season.
The first play from scrimmage in the game resulted in an encroachment penalty on Plainville - an inauspicious start. But the Blue Devilsâ defense was up to the challenge at the start, forcing a quick punt after an easy first down for Farmington on its first-and-5 play.
Then on Plainvilleâs first play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Frank Griffin found a wide-open Brady Callahan down the left sideline for a big 57-yard reception that got the ball to Farmingtonâs 8-yard line. As it would turn out, though, that one play accounted for well over half of Griffinâs total passing yards in the game (97). Three subsequent running plays got the ball to the 2-yard line, from where the Blue Devils had to settle for a field goal.
Farmington continued to be the team making the most mistakes early. On the first play of their second possession, the Indians fumbled and recovered the ball for the second time, but lost 12 yards on the play. Then they fumbled again on the next snap and this time Plainville recovered to set up a short touchdown drive.
All was going well for the Blue Devils at that time, but that soon changed.
After Plainville made it 10-0, Farmington ran the ensuing kickoff back to the Blue Devilsâ 32-yard line. Five plays later, Farmington had cut the lead to 10-7.
Looking for a chance to answer that score, Plainville was taken down on its own 13-yard line on the following kickoff return, then couldnât get out of its own backfield on a pair of running plays. Combined with an incomplete pass, the Blue Devils were forced to punt on fourth and 19 from their own 4. When the snap went out of the end zone for a safety, Plainvilleâs lead had been cut to 10-9 and the Blue Devils were on their heels.
âEmotional games like this, tight games like this, things are going to happen,â Shea said.
âIâm not going to go back and look and second guess, âWhat about this? What about that?â Iâm sure they could say the same thing. Thatâs sports, itâs football,â he said.
After Farmington capped a long drive with a field goal to take a 12-10 lead early in the third quarter, Plainville had an apparent long pass reception called back by an ineligible player penalty, eventually resulting in a punt.
Getting the ball to start the second half, Plainville worked its way to a first and 10 on Farmingtonâs 27-yard line before a penalty, an 11-yard sack and a 4-yard loss on a running play drove the Blue Devils back to the 46, from where they had to punt.
What turned out to be Plainvilleâs last score of the season came after a short, ground-ball punt hit a Farmington player and was recovered by the Blue Devils, giving them a first and 10 at Farmingtonâs 40-yard line. Plainville was able to drive it in from there for a 17-12 lead.
But mistakes came back to haunt the Blue Devils again.
A 15-play, 80-yard Farmington drive for what proved to be the winning touchdown was kept alive by a pass interference call on what would have been a key interception for Plainville.
The Blue Devils couldnât move the ball on their next possession, but were given new life when a wide-open Farmington receiver dropped a would-be touchdown pass at the goal line on a fourth down play for the Indians.
On its last drive of the season, Plainville moved the ball well and got a pair of first downs - the second coming on a 1-yard plunge by Griffin on a fourth-and-1 play - but Griffin threw an interception with just over three minutes remaining and Farmington was able to get a few first downs and run out the clock from then.
âWe were moving the ball, we were looking to get at least in field goal range,â Shea said of that last drive. âWe ran the ball, then we looked for a pass and thought we had something, we did, but they made a play on the ball. Thatâs a bang-bang play.â
Despite the season-ending loss, Shea was proud of his team.
âWe wish we were on the other side of it. We werenât, but thatâs not going to take away from what this team has done this year,â he said. âI feel bad for the seniors, because they worked very, very, very hard. I wish it came out the other way âŠ but you canât always choose that.â
With its first winning season in four years, rebounding from a winless season just two years ago, Shea said Plainville has a solid core for the future, with nine or 10 sophomores playing prominent roles this season.
âHopefully they can see what the older kids have gone through, and Iâm looking forward to the future,â he said. âObviously, I think weâve turned the corner as a program. We have a long way to go, but weâre on our way. âŠ Theyâve worked very hard, and the results have shown.â
For Griffin, Callahan and the programâs many other key seniors, Wednesday nightâs loss was especially tough.
âItâs their last game [at Plainville High] and for the most part, itâs the last time theyâre ever going to play. And thatâs the big thing about Thanksgiving football,â Shea said. âIâm very proud of the senior class. Tonightâs not going to define them. I think that the body of work shows what theyâve really done and Iâm very proud of them and Iâm happy to be their coach.â
Paul Angilly can be reached at 860-973-1800, or email@example.com