TOLLAND - When Christian Collin hit the pylon with less than a minute remaining on Saturday, he jumped up off the ground, let out a scream and ran the length of the end zone to cap off what had been a crazy five and a half minutes for the Plainville football team.
The Blue Devils were still yelling in excitement as they walked off the field and to their buses following their 22-16 victory over Tolland, which left shocked and dejected that it had let a game like that slip away.
It certainly wasn’t the prettiest win or even particularly efficient, but what separates this Plainville team from ones in years past - at least at this point in the season - has been its ability to make plays when it needs to. Sure, there is still a long way for the Blue Devils (4-1) to go and a number of games left to play. But when called upon Saturday to make something happen, Plainville was able to do that, especially during the fourth quarter.
“We have the voices in the back of our heads of all the people that keep doubting us and that drives us to keep on going,” Collin, the junior quarterback, said minutes after scoring the game-winning touchdown.
There was the defensive stand with 8:30 left after Collin had thrown an interception that forced the Eagles to punt. There was Collin’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Javan Paradis less than 10 seconds later to bring the Blue Devils to within two points, followed by Plainville’s defense forcing another three-and-out on the next series.
And then of course, there was the Blue Devils’ game-winning drive that not only featured Collin’s 5-yard run on fourth down for the game’s biggest and most important play, but two others that put the quarterback in position to play the role of hero.
Facing 3rd-and-17 from their own 37, Collin hit Dylan Hall for a 25-yard gain that flipped the field and gave Plainville a fresh set of downs. Three plays later, Beau Lasher took a screen pass eight yards to covert a 3rd-and-4. Six plays later, Collin’s dive for the pylon all but sealed the win. But without those two crucial plays, the results likely would have been different.
A Ryan Barker sack and Felix La Oz’s interception when the Blue Devils’ defense went back on the field with 38 seconds left officially put the game away.
“It’s stuff we talk about all the time,” Plainville head coach Tim Shea said. “It’s the kids’ belief and chemistry in each other. We say something every day when we take attendance, ‘you can count on me coach,’ and I said it to them on that last drive, ‘count on me,’ and they all believed in each other. Football is a long year. Lifting, running, training, the hours you put in, it’s a lot. They’re a tight group and that helped. They never believed they were out of it.”
As it turns out, that belief in taking advantage of those opportunities began to develop a little more than a season ago, right after the Blue Devils lost a back-and-forth contest against RHAM that ended in a 32-24 heartbreaking loss. Up 24-0 at the half, Plainville turned the ball over five times and the Sachems turned three of those into points. RHAM ended up scoring 32 unanswered points over the final 24 minutes of play.
From that moment, the Blue Devils learned a hard lesson that no team is ever really out of a game and when you have a chance to put an opponent away, you need to. The Eagles learned that same lesson on Saturday.
“We knew we had to finish [against Tolland],” defensive lineman Adrien Marcos said. “That’s what we’ve been working on since that RHAM loss that year. We know we have to put up a fight until the end if we’re losing.”
Since that loss, Plainville is 9-2 over its last 11 games. The two times the program was defeated in that span was in the 2018 season finale against Farmington (18-17) in another game the Blue Devils should have won and against Bloomfield (49-0) right before the bye week.
But more importantly, it shows the growth of the players within the program. After Saturday’s win, Shea was quick to point out that a majority of those players who went through those experiences last year were learning at the varsity level as sophomores and learning to be successful. Now those players are juniors and making plays happen.
“It shows they believe in what they’re doing and they believe in what we’re doing,” Shea said. “And they’re going to continue to grow.”
Plainville has already shown quite a bit of growth. That much was evident on Saturday. Now, the Blue Devils just have to prove they can continue to find ways to win like they did against Tolland beginning with Berlin (4-1) on Friday.
“We made some improvements throughout [the bye week] to really everything,” Collin said. “After that loss to Bloomfield, it showed we had a lot of things to work on and we still have a lot to fix up, but we’re getting better.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com