MERIDEN — It took all of 18 seconds for the Platt football team to know it would be in for a long Friday night at Falcon Field.
A night that ended with the Panthers 1 yard short of a possible victory.
After allowing Bristol Central’s Galen Hickey to return the game’s opening kickoff for a touchdown and fumbling on their first snap from scrimmage, the Panthers did just enough things wrong to suffer a frustrating 14-12 CCC Division II West loss at Falcon Field.
Platt had its chances to win, blocking a punt with just under four minutes to play. But instead of a scoop-and-score by Antwone Santiago that would have put Platt ahead, the Panthers had to settle for a first-and-goal from the 10.
After three Roberto Salas runs produced just three yards, quarterback Blaise Lanoue was stopped a yard short of the goal line on a fourth-down scramble.
Adding to the Panthers’ misery: Lanoue may have broke his left collarbone on the play.
Taking over on downs, Bristol Central ran three plays and then, with 4.3 seconds to play, Hickey took an intentional safety as time expired.
“I came up short; it happens,” said Lanoue, who had ice wrapped around his left shoulder and was on his way to the emergency room. “Tonight, we just thought they were worse than they were. Tonight, we came into the game thinking we were the better team. But as the score shows, we had to fight to win, and it didn’t happen.”
The loss dropped Platt to 3-3 on the season and put the Panthers’ hopes of reaching the CIAC Class M playoffs in deep jeopardy.
Bristol Central improved to 3-3 and beat the Panthers on the field for the second straight season, though BC had to forfeit last year’s 21-20 win for using an ineligible player.
“We came out really flat,” Platt head coach Jason Bruenn said of Friday’s rematch. “We just couldn’t move the ball effectively.
“The CCC Division II isn’t a place where you can make mistakes,” Bruenn added. “It’s tough competition every night.”
The Panthers responded to Hickey’s 96-yard opening salvo and took a 7-6 lead on Salas’ 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. But too many Platt mistakes and big plays by the Rams allowed Bristol Central to lead by halftime.
Salas led all rushers with 174 yards on 25 carries.
The Platt junior dominated after halftime, when he gained 111 of his yards. Salas ripped off runs of 11, 17 and 11 yards to start the third quarter and get the Panthers into the red zone.
Facing a fourth down, Lanoue was hit as he threw and was intercepted with 7:55 to play in the quarter.
Platt’s defense rose to the occasion and stopped BC at midfield. But, once again, Platt moved down the field to no avail behind Salas.
His runs of 25 and 19 yards got the Panthers to the BC 1-yard line. But a bad snap to Lanoue resulted in a 9-yard loss and the Panthers had to settle for Trent D’Aniello’s 27-yard field goal with 37 seconds to play in the third quarter.
That left them still trailing, 14-10.
Earlier, Hickey’s return proceeded a trio of big first-half moments that set the tone for BC’s win.
Bristol Central quarterback Victor Rosa hit Shawn Rodriguez on a 45-yard pass in the first quarter that could have been a TD had Rodriguez not been tripped up by a teammate in the open field.
The Rams took their 14-7 lead into halftime only after a late hit on Rosa in the end zone kept BC’s drive alive. Facing a third-and-22 from their own 8, the Rams were given an automatic first down when Rosa was hit by a Platt defender late after delivering an incomplete pass.
On the next play, Tre Jones went 58 yards down the sideline to the Platt 19. And after a Jaylen Jones sack, Rosa scrambled for 16 yards on third down to the 1.
On fourth down, the Rams went to a Wildcat formation, snapping the ball directly to Hickey, who slammed into the end zone with 1:16 to play in the half. Hickey then covered a 2-point conversion by taking the direct snap again.
After its shaky start, Platt took the lead 7-6 with 1:56 to play in the first quarter. Salas capped off a 17-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. Platt drove 83 yards and chewed up most of the first quarter. Salas carried the ball nine times on the drive for 41 yards.