October 22, 2013 08:40PM
By Ken Lipshez
BLOOMFIELD — The Platt football team was anxious to prove that the first half was merely a triumph of emotion.
Bloomfield was primed to end the Panthers’ unbeaten run and determined to derail Tyzhan Leatherwood.
Almost, but not quite.
Leatherwood raced 23 yards for his third touchdown of the game midway through the fourth quarter and the Platt defense finally put the clamps on explosive Bloomfield quarterback Norvel Stewart to escape with a 34-32 CCC Division III crossover victory at Phil Rubin Stadium on Friday night.
Platt, vying for a playoff spot in a competitive Class L field, raised its record to 6-0. Bloomfield, which lost to Rocky Hill in Week 4, may be the best 4-2 team in the state.
“This is a huge victory for us, especially coming off last week (47-14 rout of Rocky Hill),” Platt coach Jason Bruenn said. “People were expecting a down side and we saw some down side, but I’m not taking anything away from Bloomfield. This one could have gone either way. We’re lucky.”
A Bloomfield encroachment penalty that gave the Panthers a first down on fourth-and-one and a 19-yard pass from Andrew McBride to Olajuwon McLeod set the stage for the game-winning romp by Leatherwood.
The defense stood tall on the Warhawks’ next possession, enabling Leatherwood to run out the clock on 12 successive carries.
Cyrick Watford nailed Travis Thompson for a one-yard loss on first down as the Panthers took command.
“Cyrick’s a good player and he’ll continue to get better as the season goes on,” Bruenn said.
The Warhawks drove down the field with the opening kickoff and also reached the end zone on their second possession to take a two-touchdown lead with just over six minutes having elapsed.
Bruenn knew his Panthers were in for a difficult evening.
“When they took the ball in on us the first drive, I was like, ‘Uh-oh,, here it goes.’ They’re an emotional team; they play off those big gains. When they do something like that, they just feed off of it like I’ve seen very few teams do,” Bruenn said.
On the first drive, Thompson worked the ends and Stewart plied the middle with keepers and improvisations off passing plays. On a second-down play from the Platt 34, Stewart (4 touchdowns rushing, 1 passing) slipped past the defensive line and had free sailing to the end zone. The 6-3, 215-pound senior accounted for 339 yards.
On offense, something was missing for Platt. Leatherwood did not start because he missed practice on Monday and, on their first possession, the Panthers went three and out.
“We’re going to hold to our values win or lose,” Bruenn said. “He had to sit out a series and that’s what he did.”
Two plays later, Bloomfield wide receiver Terrence Mitchell flew down the right sideline and Stewart hit him in stride for a 44-yard touchdown strike. The Warhawks led 13-0 with 5:40 left in the first quarter.
With Leatherwood in the backfield, the Panthers got their bearings on the next possession.
McBride connected with McLeod on three short outs and Jason Nelson in the flat to loosen up the aggressive Bloomfield defense.
Leatherwood covered the final 26 yards, scoring from the 5 on the fifth play of the second quarter. Joe Mwamba added the extra point.
To the Warhawks’ credit, they didn’t flinch. Stewart and Andrell Pinnock covered 63 yards on two carries. The Panthers made a goal-line stand with Bloomfield at the 2 on first down, but Stewart skirted left end on fourth down for a 19-7 advantage.
Platt answered right back. McBride lofted a pass and let Creme Watford make the play in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown 2:36 before halftime that made it a one-possession deficit with a half yet to play.
The exchange of punches continued as the third quarter unfolded.
The Panthers drove 61 yards in 10 plays with McBride’s quarterback sneak giving them their first lead at 20-19.
But Stewart’s elusiveness continued to baffle the Platt front seven. He was hit by Nelson, among others, in the backfield, but slipped out for a 78-yard scamper to restore the Warhawks’ lead at 25-20.
On the final play of the third quarter, Leatherwood foiled a Bloomfield stand with a four-yard TD run on third down. Mwamba added the placement and Platt led by two.
“The first half we were real sloppy, but the second half we put it together,” Leatherwood said. “We had a long talk with all our coaches and we knew what we had to do.”
Once again, Stewart led the Warhawks down the field in lightning-bolt fashion.
Two pass plays covered 58 yards. Stewart slithered into the end zone around right end and Bloomfield regained the lead after trailing for just 82 seconds.
Weaver is next on the Panthers’ agenda Saturday at 1 p.m.
Platt 34, Bloomfield 32
At Phil Rubin Stadium
B—Norvel Stewart 34 run (Terrence Mitchell kick), 8:18
B—Mitchell 44 pass from Stewart (kick failed), 5:40
P—Tyzhan Leatherwood 5 run (Joseph Mwamba kick), 10:13
B—Stewart 2 run (pass failed), 5:29
P—Creme Watford 19 pass from Andrew McBride (Mwamba kick), 2:36