MERIDEN — With under two minutes left in the fourth quarter Friday night at Falcon Field, Tolland scored a touchdown to cut Platt’s lead to 15-14.
With the Eagles going for 2 and the win, the Panther defense held up against a quarterback sneak to win the game by one.
“I am going to see my cardiologist; my heart can’t take this stuff anymore,” Platt head coach Jason Bruenn said jokingly after the challenging 15-14 victory.
Then, in all seriousness, he added, “They played their butts off.”
Two-point plays were at the start and finish of this CCC interdivisional game and they were as crucial as the two touchdown passes thrown by Platt quarterback Melvin Sanchez in between.
A couple hours before stopping Tolland on its 2-point try, the Platt defense produced the first two points of the game by forcing a safety on Tolland’s opening possession.
The Panther defense was tremendous throughout, forcing turnovers and limiting Tolland to two scores. There were five turnovers from both teams, which helped keep the game low scoring throughout.
Platt junior running back Joel Rey said that given how well the defense played, the Panthers should have won by more.
“In the first half, we started to slack a little bit,” Rey said. “Our defense eventually picked up in the second half and helped us win.”
Staked to the 2-0 lead by the defense, the Panther offense did not score in the opening quarter. Sanchez, a junior in his first year as Platt’s starting quarterback, hit his first three passes, but failed to convert a fourth-down play in Tolland territory.
Sanchez shook it off and threw touchdown passes to senior receivers Zack Baker and Amari Robinson.
“Our passing is coming on; it’s a slow process,” Bruenn noted. “Melvin is doing a good job learning and getting more comfortable in the pocket.”
In the meantime, Bruenn said, the running game and the defense will carry the team as the offense takes time to develop.
“We can move the ball when we want to,” Bruenn said. “There are things that we need to make right with us.”
During the game, Bruenn’s message to the Panthers was to be physical from start to finish, reiterating that the offense would take time.
“Coach’s message was to come out strong and not give up,” Rey said.
Late in the third quarter, Rey made a massive hit on Tolland quarterback Ryan Caminiti and forced a fumble. Senior linebacker Landon Freemantle scooped up the loose ball and took it into Tolland territory.
“When you see a ball hit the floor, you just want to pick it up and score, but I got as far as I could,” Freemantle said. “I got tired and caught a little cramp, but we ended up scoring on that drive.”
Indeed, Sanchez threw his second touchdown to Robinson from four yards out to push Platt’s lead to seven, 15-8, in the fourth quarter.
“That was such a huge shift,” Bruenn said. “That is what we’re talking about when our defense has to carry us a little bit, and we’ve got to get those plays.”
Due to the weather last Friday, Platt never finished its season opener against Rocky Hill. (The Panthers are up 7-0 in the second quarter of a game expected to be completed in October.)
This Friday, Platt got a full game in the books, and Freemantle said it was a big win for the team.
“It was an ugly win,” the senior captain said. “Defense looked sharp and the offense needs some work, but a win is a win.”