PLAINVILLE - The Central Connecticut Conferenceâ€™s postseason experience for the 2020 fall season is much smaller than a typical state tournament in terms of bracket sizes and due to the covid-19 pandemic, it had to be.
With all competition regionalized this season to limit travel and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference not holding its own playoff experience, the CCC split its teams up into four regions, then split each region up into two brackets, with the top four seeds playing for the title and the bottom four seeds playing its own mini tournament.
It was hardly what a team like the Plainville boys soccer team was used to, but the Blue Devils chose to not focus on the smaller scope of the tournament. All it meant was that there were fewer games needed to accomplish what is always their yearly goal, which is winning a championship.
So, Tuesday afternoonâ€™s 4-1 win over Bristol Central in the first round of the CCCâ€™s Region B tournament meant that second-seeded Plainville was already halfway home toward its ultimate goal.
â€śWe said that this is a semifinal,â€ť head coach Tim Brown said. â€śWe go to many semifinals, and we looked at this as just that, and the goal being to get to the final. If we only have two games to achieve that, so be it.â€ť
The Blue Devils are used to being in semifinal contests, especially in recent years. Last season, Plainville reached the Class M semifinals as the No. 19 seed before losing 4-0 to eventual state champion Stonington, and back in 2018, the Blue Devils rattled off a magical run that included a dramatic 2-1 win over Stonington in the semifinals to propel the program to its first-ever state championship berth, where Plainville finished the job to become state champions.
Tuesdayâ€™s game against the Rams may not have carried the same stakes, but it was the best the Blue Devils would get in terms of accomplishing what it normally their yearly goal of winning a title. They fell just short last year after reaching the top in 2018, and now, though it may look a lot different, they are one game away from becoming champs again, even if itâ€™s a different kind of champion.
For Plainville, it was easy to find gratitude in having any kind of postseason experience after being in danger of not having a season at all just a few short months ago, when most sports across the state were shut down.
â€śIt feels really good,â€ť All-State senior Patrick Gryczewski said. â€śThatâ€™s what we look forward to all season. We always want to work towards the tournament, so it was nice to have something to work towards.â€ť
With just one game left, the Blue Devils will have a chance to battle for a championship. It wonâ€™t be under the lights at Veterans Stadium in front of a massive crowd, but it will still offer the team a chance to say it won it all. Given the alternative, the Region B final will still feel like a state championship.
â€śWeâ€™re grateful to be out here and grateful that we can be together doing what we love to do,â€ť Brown said. â€śWeâ€™re very fortunate. It could be the other way around, sitting at home on our hands. We all feel bad and hurt for the football teams. Weâ€™re fortunate to be in this position.â€ť