MERIDEN — A coach usually wants his athletes to have short-term memory.
Botch a play? Forget about it. Move on to the next.
Then there are times a coach wants memory to be long and wants it to burn.
Someone beats you by 40? Don’t you dare forget about that.
The Platt Panthers certainly did not forget the 48-8 pasting Rocky Hill laid on them last year. In fact, they remembered so well they nearly reversed the score in getting 47-14 payback on the Terriers Friday night at Falcon Field.
The romp came in a meeting of undefeated league leaders in CCC Division III and leaves head coach Jason Bruenn’s Panthers the circuit’s lone unbeaten at 5-0.
“Coach Bruenn’s been grinding on us all week, saying the score, ‘Rocky Hill beat us by this much, this much.’ The whole week,” reported senior co-captain/linebacker Scott Dargan. “He was telling us, too, this was a state playoff game right here.”
Platt built a 20-0 lead by halftime, but the game was still tight until junior running back Tyzhan Leatherwood busted it open. He broke off touchdown runs of 93 and 80 yards in the third quarter.
Leatherwood and his O-line had another monster night. With 347 yards and four TDs on 30 carries, Leatherwood is already over 1,000 yards for the season.
In addition, senior quarterback Andrew McBride had another efficient game. He threw just 11 passes, but completed seven, including three for touchdowns to Watford and Olajuwon McLeod (2).
McLeod was also a key factor on special teams. He had two long punt returns. One set up Leatherwood’s first TD, a 13-yard burst in the first quarter. The other led to a 24-yard scoring fade from McBride to Watford with a minute to go in the first half.
A long kickoff return by Javon White set up Platt’s last scoring drive after Rocky Hill, with its second touchdown on the third quarter, had cut the gap to 33-14.
Mostly, though, the difference was defense, at least when compared to last year. In that game, Rocky Hill tight end Tommy Seaver had a field day on skinny posts. On Friday, the Panthers put the 6-foot-2, 195 Watford on the 6-0, 170 Seaver and that helped limit the Terriers through the air.
As for Rocky Hill’s double-wing ground game, it saw limited glimpses of daylight. Dargan & Co. held All-State senior running back Chris Young to 84 yards.
“I was extremely worried coming off of Tuesday practice. Tuesday was not a good day,” Bruenn confided. “Wednesday we came back and it was like, ‘Who are these people?’ It’s like we’re this night-and-day defense, but as long as they keep showing up on game day and playing well, it’ll work.”
Platt held Rocky Hill to just one first down on three first-quarter possessions. Despite the dominance, the Panthers had just six points on the board.
The Terriers mounted a good drive to start the second frame, moving from their 9 to the Platt 14. A 31-yard field goal attempt was lined wide right, however, and Platt’s 6-0 lead held.
The score was the same when Platt’s defense provided the pivot point of the night. The Panthers had just gambled and lost on a fourth-and-8 bid at midfield. On the very next snap, Platt chased down quarterback Andrew Jenkelunas, stripped him, and by the time Dargan tumbled on the bounding fumble 29 yards down field, the Panthers had the ball at the Rocky Hill 30.
Initially, they stalled. But on a fourth-and-12 play at the 32, Platt gambled again and this time took the pot as McBride deposited a fade over two defenders into the hands of Olajuwon.
“We wanted to get payback,” said Watford, whose TD reception would follow on the next series for the 20-0 halftime lead. “They demolished us at their home field last year. We just wanted to come out here, play a good game and show everyone else in the conference we’re ready to play.”
Platt 47, Rocky Hill 14
At Falcon Field
Rocky Hill 00-00-14-00—00
P—Tyzhan Leatherwood 13 run (kick failed) 4:49
P—Olajuwon McLeod 32 pass from Andrew McBride (Joe Mwamba kick) 3:38
P—Creme Watford 24 pass from McBride (Mwamba kick) 1:01
P—Leatherwood 93 run (kick failed) 7:48
RH—Chris Young 2 run (Young run) 4:09
P—Leatherwood 80 run (Mwamba kick) 3:56
RH—Kenshaun Gamble 2 run (run failed) 2:28
P—McLeod 3 pass from McBride (Mwamba kick) 10:21
P—Leatherwood 8 run (Mwamba kick) 8:45
RUSHING—Rocky Hill (40-161): Chris Young 18-84, Kenshaun Gamble 7-35, Grant Nieves 3-29, Greg Marzilli 5-10, Andrew Jenkelunas 6-2, Tyler Costa 1-1; Platt (38-348): Individuals Tyzhan Leatherwood 30-347, Andrew McBride 5-(-8), Danny Cajigas 3-9.
PASSING—Rocky Hill/Andrew Jenkelunas 4-14, 72 yards, 1 INT; Platt/Andrew McBride 7-11, 83, 3 TD.
RECEIVING—Rocky Hill (4-72): Tom Seaver 2-36, Greg Marzilli 1-28, Chris Young 1-8; Platt (7-83): Creme Watford 3-35, Olajuwon McLeod 2-35, Tyzhan Leatherwood 1-7, Jason Nelson 1-6.