MERIDEN – How sweet it is.
Platt used a big second-half surge to knock off rival Maloney 36-20, to clinch a spot in the Class L playoffs, among other things.
“We tied the Stoddard Bowl record, we’re now back to even,” Platt coach Jason Bruenn said. “We won the conference outright – we don’t have to share it with anybody – and we get to go to the playoffs. Is there anything more sweeter than that?
“We beat Maloney too, I guess it’s real sweet.”
On the back of a strong running game behind Jake Baker and Roberto Salas, the Panthers scored 22-straight points to open up the second half and take control of the game.
“The thing is, these kids bought into what we told them this week,” said Bruenn, whose team got back into Class L playoff contention when it received a forfeit from Bristol Central two weeks ago. “It was different than what we normally do. Normally, we throw the ball a little bit more. We thought we could run on them and these kids bought into what we were saying.”
Trailing 12-8 at halftime, Baker scored on a 5-yard run on the Panthers first drive of the second half.
The next time down the field it was Baker again, this time from 1-yard out.
“Yes I wanted the ball,” Baker said, laughing. “I always want the ball. I need the ball in my hands.”
The success on the ground for the Panthers, while not new, came in different formations than they have typically used this year.
“They had a good game plan going into it,” Maloney coach Kevin Frederick said. “(They) did some things they haven’t shown before. We didn’t adjust to it well. Out coached, out played, all the above.”
With a 22-12 lead, the Panthers defense continued to hold, forcing Maloney to turn the ball over on downs three straight drives.
After a third time in the fourth quarter, Bruenn went to bruising sophomore running back Salas to finish off the game.
The sophomore scored on a 6-yard run to extend the Panthers’ lead 18 points and, after Maloney responded with a touchdown to make it a two score game, Salas put Maloney away for good by running 44 yards for his second touchdown of the game.
“I wanted to get first downs and run the clock, put the game away and get the Stoddard Bowl win,” Salas said.
Victor Marquez caught two touchdowns in the loss for Maloney. The Spartans had already clinched a spot in the playoffs. But now, with the loss they will have to go on the road in the first round, most likely as the No. 7 seed at either Hand or Middletown, depending on if Naugatuck defeats Ansonia. A Naugy win, and the Spartans likely will make a trip to the Surf Club to face the defending Class L champions.
“Yeah, you have to rebound quickly,” Frederick said. “You have to get over this and then go back to Tuesday and try to win a playoff game and hopefully win a state championship.
“It hurts. We wanted this game badly. We put a lot of time and effort into preparing for this and it didn’t come out our way so it’s upsetting.”
Platt returns to the Class L playoffs after a one-year absence. The Panthers are expected to get the No. 6, but none of that is official until the remaining week’s games are played.
“It’s a great day to be a Panther,” Bruenn said. “That’s what I tell these kids all the time. We work hard, we just try to be as tough as we possible can. I knew this game would come down to toughness.”
Platt 36, Maloney 20
PLATT 8 0 14 14 – 36
MALONEY 6 6 0 8 – 20
M – James Tarver 9-yard run (2 pt fail)
P – Keaton Caffery 11-yard catch from Lorenzo Sanson (Sanson to Frederick D’Aniello)
M – Victor Marquez 7-yard catch from Elliot Good (2pt fail)
P – Jake Baker 5-yard run (Baker run)
P – Baker 1-yard run (2 pt fail)
P – Roberto Salas 6-yard run (Baker run)
M – Marquez 41-yard catch from Good (Good run)
P – Salas 44-yard run (2 pt fail)