The final whistle sounded and the scoreboard at Plainville High School read 48-13.
Rocky Hill football has been on the winning side of many lopsided scores over the past three seasons, but last Friday night they were on the losing end at Tinty Stadium as the home Blue Devils dealt the Terriers another tough defeat.
“It’s growing pains,” said Rocky Hill had coach Mark Fritz after his team fell to 1-2, “This team needs to learn how to win and we’re going through that right now but we’ll get there.”
Plainville’s offense generated one big play after another and fleet-footed quarterback Frank Griffin, playing in his first game of the season, had a debut to remember. The senior scored three touchdowns on the ground and tossed another, helping the Blue Devils improved to 2-1.
The win also snapped a three-game losing streak against their rivals from Rocky Hill.
“A lot of it is just effort plays,” Fritz said about the team’s defensive breakdowns, “We’re doing some things that when you look at it on film it just doesn’t make sense and that falls on me. I have to do a better job getting them ready for the week and we’ve got to do a better job tackling.”
Allowing 48 points is never a good thing, but it wasn’t all bad for a Rocky Hill defense that forced three turnovers. Eric Callahan recovered a pair of fumbles and Omar Ahmed intercepted a pass in defeat.
Offensively the Terriers moved the ball between the 20s but were unable to capitalize once they reached the red zone.
Playing in their first road games of the season, the Terriers took the opening kickoff and drove 46 yards in 10 plays, advancing deep into Plainville territory, but on their eleventh play quarterback Ja’quan Graham was picked off by Christian Collin at the 10-yard line.
It was the first of four interceptions (two inside the 20) for the home team, who also blocked a punt.
Rocky Hill had another drive stall just outside the red zone when a series of penalties backed them up before they eventually turned the ball over on downs.
“It was a lot of self-inflicted penalties. We did a lot of silly things out there,” added Fritz, “We got penalties to kill drives and you can’t do that. We did some good things and moved the ball but when we get inside the 20 we’ve got to be able to finish.”
Graham and the offense did show some potential, showcasing their own big play ability.
Trailing 7-0 following Griffin’s first touchdown, a six-yard keeper on the first play of the second quarter, the Terriers responded when Graham connected with running back Shane Gallagher for a 65-yard equalizer.
Graham rolled left and threw across his body to Gallagher, who split two defenders and raced to the end zone.
“He plays hard every single play, which is all that I can ask,” Fritz said of Graham, who is replacing three-year starter Danny Cavallaro, “He’s come a long way as a leader and for a first-year quarterback he’s doing some really good things. I’m excited to see him keep progressing.”
Gallagher was also responsible for the Terriers other touchdown, a scoring sprint from 28 yards out in the fourth quarter. The senior is the feature back behind Graham, combining with Nico Capasso and Matt Sevigny to form a strong and potentially potent backfield in Rocky Hill.
For Plainville it was a night filled with scoring.
Griffin added a 45-yard scoring scramble and a 26-yard scoring strike to Marcos Gutierrez before halftime, providing the Blue Devils a 21-7 advantage at the break. Griffin scored his final touchdown from three yards out with 4:14 left in the third and then speedy back Brendan Quilter exploded for touchdowns runs of 74 and 56 yards. Felix Laoz capped the scoring with a 13-yard sweep late in regulation.
The big plays surrendered, combined with costly penalties, are some of the things that Fritz believes are correctable and are part of the growing process.
“We have a new team playing football. A lot of it was frustration tonight when the score did get out of hand, but that’s just unacceptable. For our program and my coaching staff we’re not going to accept that going forward. We’ll learn from tonight.”
This isn’t Fritz’ first rodeo and he can lean on the experience from five years ago when he first took over the head coaching duties. His 2014 team had several underclassmen starting, finishing 5-6, and then the 2015 season began with a 34-0 loss to Avon.
However things quickly turned around as the Terriers went on to win 26 of 27 regular season games, earning back-to-back postseason berths the past two seasons, which included a state championship appearance in 2016.
Large graduating classes in 2016 and 2017, including 16 seniors from a season ago, have forced a rebuild in Rocky Hill but that’s something that Fritz has done before and will no doubt do again.
“A lot of these guys hadn’t play varsity football before this year so for a lot of these kids this is there third varsity football game ever. Some of the kids last year had played 40 varsity football games by the time they graduated,” recalled Fritz, “When you have that many kids experiencing varsity football for the first time it’s going to take a while but we have a good group of kids that want to succeed and they want to be coached.”
The new-look Terriers started the season with a 21-14 victory over Northwest Catholic but have been outscored by 91 points over the last two weeks, including a 56-0 loss to Bloomfield in week two.
Next up is Tolland (1-2), who come to RHHS this Friday, Sept 28, for a 7 pm kick.
“Our effort, I want great effort on every single play,” Fritz said when asked what he’s like to see from his team going forward, “Whether they mess up or not, it’s ok as long as we give great effort on every play.”
The Starting Five: Local Athletes of the Week
J.J. Tracy- Cromwell (Soccer): Tracy had a phenomenal week, scoring four goals in a 4-2 win over Coginchaug, and following it up with a pair of goals in a 3-3 tie with East Hampton. The senior captain is a four-year varsity performer for the Panthers and was a first-team All-Shoreline Conference player and an all-state selection last fall.
Xzavier Reyes- Middletown (Football): Reyes has quietly taken the local football world by storm and had his best performance of the season last Friday night in a 44-7 victory over Hartford Public, rushing for 203 yards and three touchdowns on only 13 carries, a robust 15.6 yards per touch. The senior running back now has 468 yards and eight touchdowns through three games, making him an early all-state candidate.
McKenna DeLuca- Newington (Filed Hockey): Deluca scored two goals in 4-1 win over East Catholic last Monday. The junior is having a breakout field hockey season this fall and is also an accomplished softball player, earning all-conference last spring.
Amanda Schuman- Rocky Hill (Volleyball): Schuman had 15 assists, three kills, and an ace in a four set victory over Middletown last Friday. The senior setter is one of the team’s captains and entered the week averaging three assists per set.
Mark Accarpio- Wethersfield (Soccer): Accarpio is the goalkeeper and anchored the defense as Wethersfield posted two shutouts last week; a 2-0 road win at Berlin and a 6-0 home victory over Windsor. The senior is in his third year starting in goal for the Eagles.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin