By Ron Buck
BRISTOL — Winless, but still dangerous. That’s what Bristol Eastern proved to be Friday night.
Platt was the better football team and proved it with a 40-17 CCC Division II-West victory at Bristol Eastern.
The win kept the Panthers on top in the division at 3-0. Overall, Platt is 5-1.
But the Panthers did trail twice in the first half before dominating the second half.
Jake Baker’s 64-yard punt return gave Platt an initial 6-0 lead. The Lancers (0-6) took leads of 7-6 and 14-13 before the Panthers methodically pulled away.
“Our players see they’re 0-5 and we are 4-1, and they think they can walk in here and do what we want, and that’s not the case,” Platt head coach Jason Bruenn said. “This is one of the most competitive leagues in the state.
“On any given week, you can get popped, no matter what your schedule. Every week you are tested in this division and if you have an off night you could lose a game that you should win.”
Leading 27-17 at halftime, Platt went on a 10-play drive on its opening possession of the second half to open up a 33-17 lead. Lorenzo Sanson capped that drive with a 1-yard plunge. His 19-yard TD toss to Fred D’aniello with 3:33 to play resulted in the game’s final score.
The game was all but settled with 7:15 to play when Platt stopped the Lancers on fourth down.
“The first half shouldn’t have been that way, but stuff happens,” Platt junior defensive lineman Jaylen John said. “We don’t always play our best early, and we have to fix that.
“We came out after halftime and said, ‘They won’t score.’”
While the Panthers were the only team to score in the second half and were as never seriously threatened, the first 24 minutes were another story. Salas (20-96) scored twice in the second quarter on runs of 20 and 10 yards and Sanson’s first of two scoring tosses gave Platt a 27-14 lead.
The pass was a beauty to Tremayne Carter with 1:52 to play in the first half. Sanson dropped a perfect pass into the waiting arms of Carter for a 23-yard scoring play that gave Platt a 27-14 lead.
“I knew Tre could beat them on the outside,” Sanson said. “I just threw it up and knew he’d make a play.”
Sanson finished the game 12-for-17 for 182 yards. Baker caught six passes for 84 yards.
“Honestly, I didn’t think they’d score on our defense like they did,” Sanson said. “But the second half, our defense came out tough.”
Bristol Eastern may have trailed at halftime, but it entered the locker room with momentum after Jack Bachand made a 31-yard field goal as time expired.
Platt, however, took the second-half kickoff 49 yards for a touchdown and the Panthers' first punt of the game came with two minutes to play in the third quarter. Platt was only forced to punt after a pair of penalties presented a fourth-and-18 situation.
Bristol Eastern, meanwhile, failed to get past its own 25 in the third quarter and past midfield in the second half.
In an entertaining first half, the teams traded leads three times before the Panthers finally stopped the Lancers on fourth down with 4:35 to play in the half. Platt led 19-7 at the time and never trailed again.
Taking over on downs at their own 28, the Panthers needed only five plays to extended their lead to 27-14. Capping the drive was that dime from Sanson to Carter.
Salas ran in the two-point conversion. He also ran for a pair of second-quarter touchdowns of 14 and 10 yards, as the Panthers took 13-7 and 19-7 leads. Salas ran for 61 yards in the first half.
Platt scored first without its offense even taking the field, as Baker returned a punt 64 yards for a 6-0 Panthers’ lead. Bristol Eastern actually controlled the ball in the first quarter, but went three-and-out on its opening possession to set up Baker’s score.
The Lancers responded with a 10-play drive to take a 7-6 lead. The Panthers put Eastern in a fourth-and 18 situation with John making a pair of nice tackles for losses. But the Lancers reached deep into their bag of tricks to take the lead, scoring on a flee-flicker that saw backup quarterback Bryce Curtin take a pitch and toss a throw a 20-yard touchdown to Elijah Gagliardo.
Bristol Eastern quarterback Justin Marshall did his best to keep the Lancers close in the first half, completing his first seven passes.
But after connecting with receivers on swing passes, he wasn’t nearly as successful going deep.
Marshall complete just three of his final nine passes of the half. He did scramble for a 17-yard TD to give Eastern its last lead 14-13 with 8:15 left in the second quarter.