MERIDEN — With the way Tyzhan Leatherwood has been tearing it up on the ground, the Platt football team hasn’t really had to throw all that much this season.
On Friday night, at home against Berlin, with a division title on the line, the Panthers served a reminder that they can wing it, too.
Quarterback Andrew McBride threw five touchdown passes — four to Creme Watford — as the Panthers turned Friday night’s CCC Division III East showdown with Berlin into a 44-6 flyover at Falcon Field.
It wasn’t just another win for undefeated Platt (8-0, 3-0). It was a statement. Against a Berlin team that has become one of its most heated rivals, not to mention its main divisional competition, Platt extended a 21-0 halftime lead with a 23-point third quarter that included not one, but two safeties on Berlin punts.
“We wanted to make a statement to the state and to anybody in our league that we’re comin’,” said cornerback Deion Lespier, who came and went with a 65-yard interception return in the first quarter, one of three picks Platt had on the night.
With Leatherwood nursing an ankle injury — he didn’t start and carried just eight times for a season-low 29 yards — the Panthers kept the ball mostly in the hands of McBride. The senior QB connected with Watford from 24 yards out on Platt’s first possession. The tandem hooked up from 46 late in the second quarter, and then from 11 and 15 to start the third.
McBride (14-for-20, 262 yards) completed his five-TD night with a 16-yard strike to Olajuwon McLeod late in the third and his night was done.
Watford, at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, simply feasted on man coverage as Berlin initially loaded up against the run. The fade ball was unstoppable, even in the face of pass interference, which is what happened on the 11-yard TD to start the second half.
“Drew’s a good quarterback,” said Watford. “I ran the routes, found a way to get open and Drew put it on me. He put it right on me. I’ve got to give credit to the line for holding up and for Drew throwing the passes.”
Said McBride: “Creme and Olajuwon, those are my two main targets. If I see them open, I just throw it. I know they’re going to go up for it. They’re the ones who make the ball on target.”
With his four TD catches, Watford tied Platt’s single-game record shared by Gabe Crespo, Andre Holloman and Mark Steele.
Speaking of which, “steel” was an apt description of the Platt defense. The Scott Dargan/Jason Nelson-led crew held Berlin to 87 yards. Berlin’s touchdown, a late aerial strike from Mitch Williams to Anthony Sisti to cap a 60-yard drive, came against the second-team defense.
“We had a great week of practice; everyone was focused,” said Platt coach Jason Bruenn. “They knew what’s at stake and how hard it is to beat a team like Berlin.”
Friday’s win, for all intents, won Platt a second straight D-III East crown. The Redcoats (4-4 overall) came in with a division mark of 3-0. Platt, now the front-runner at 3-0, has only winless Rockville left on the divisional slate, and that’s next Friday.
Platt 44, Berlin 6
At Falcon Field
P—Creme Watford 24 pass from Andrew McBride (Joe Mwamba kick) 5:12
P—Deion Lespier 65 interception return (Mwamba kick) 2:58
P—Watford 46 pass from McBride (Mwamba kick) 1:53
P—Watford 11 pass from McBride (Mwamba kick) 10:33
P—Watford 15 pass from McBride (kick failed) 6:08
P—Safety. Punt snapped through end zone, 4:03
P—Olajuwon McLeod 16 pass from McBride (kick blocked) 1:57
P—Safety. Punter tackled in end zone, 0:19
B—Anthony Sisti 15 pass from Mitch Williams (kick failed) 1:55
RUSHING—Berlin (24-37): Anthony Sisti 9-33, Dan McLeod 7-15, Jake Eliades 5-10, Mitch Williams 1-4, Eric Garcia 1-(-1), Team 1-(-24); Platt (33-80): Tyzhan Leatherwood 8-29, Cyrick Watford 10-28, Andrew McBride 2-0, Joe Mwamba 2-7, Hasani McKenzie 9-16, Dan Cajigas 2-0.
PASSING—Berlin/Mitch Williams 14-26, 100, 1 TD, 3 INT; Platt/Andrew McBride 14-20, 262 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT.
RECEIVING—Berlin (14-100): McLeod 4-22, Sisti 3-31, Nate Campbell 3-20, Garcia 2-9, Alec Norton 1-11, Eliades 1-7; Platt (14-262): Creme Watford 9-190, Olajuwon McLeod 4-52, Scott Dargan 1-20.