The Platt High football team felt flat in the first half against Farmington on Thursday night. Yes, the Panthers only went into the break trailing 7-6. But between being forced to punt twice and an early fumble, Platt didn’t seem to have it all together.
And then, the second half started.
Jake Baker took the opening kickoff 98 yards to the house, and sophomore running back Roberto Salas pounded in a 2-point conversion to take a 14-7 lead. The Panthers’ defense forced the Indians to punt on the following drive, then took a 20-7 lead off of a Sean Bell Jr. rushing touchdown.
With 5 minutes, 27 seconds left in the third, the Indians went for it on 4th-and-11. Indians quarterback Jake Conrad was met in the backfield by Platt’s Luke Fuerstenberg.
Sack, turnover on downs, Platt ball.
Minutes later, Lorenzo Sanson scored on a quarterback keeper and Joey Salafia kicked an extra point to put Platt up 27-7. That score held up until the final whistle, as the Panthers (1-0) scored 27 straight points en route to the season-opening win.
“Our mentality definitely changed, we woke up in the second half,” Salas said. “We just thought, ‘We have to step up.’”
The Panthers scored 21 points in the second half, but the defense did its job as well. In addition to Fuerstenberg’s drive-stopping sack, the Panthers orchestrated a goal-line stand, and forced a turnover on downs to keep Farmington off the board. Josh Rodriguez intercepted Conrad with 1:11 left in the game to ice it .
“I just think we played better,” head coach Jason Bruenn said of the team’s second-half defense. “I just think we played with a little more intensity.”
Platt was forced to compensate for the loss of senior running back EJ Dudley, who tore his ACL over the summer. He rushed for 1,329 yards and nine touchdowns last fall. Salas did his best to fill the hole with a few highlight plays, including a 19-yard touchdown rush to put the Panthers on the board at the 6:40 mark of the second quarter.
In the third quarter, he helped set up a pair of scoring drives, and rushed for 41 yards between the two possessions. On 3rd and 17 from Platt’s own 5-yard line in the fourth quarter, he broke free for a 35-yard run to bring the ball nearly to midfield.
“I felt real comfortable,” Salas said. “The line was really pulling up for me … all of the lineman, I can’t say anything more but thank you to them. They stepped up.”
Added Bruenn, “He’s old school. He’s the kind of kid who’s going to bang you every play.”
The Indians (0-1) got onto the scoreboard first in the second quarter, courtesy of a 1-yard jet sweep from Zihare Greaves. A 42-yard screen pass from Conrad to Niko Bouzakis set up a 1st-and-goal situation, where Farmington was stood up three times before Greaves scored on fourth down.
The Indians’ offense put just 7 points on the board in the first half, but the defense shined. With 1:29 left on the clock in the second quarter, Platt was looking to drive 80 yards down the field, score and take a lead into halftime.
The drive started promising, as Salas ripped up the defense for a 25-yard rush. But Finn Sposato sacked Lorenzo Sanson on the following play. Farmington’s defense then forced two incomplete passes, and a punt.
In the first quarter, the Indians forced both a three-and-out and caused Salas to fumble. Junior Mitchell Gugliemo laid the hit, and senior Aidan Sposato recovered the ball.
“I think they had a good game plan against us,” Bruenn said. “We made some mistakes. You can’t fumble the ball, you can’t rough the punter. We dropped a couple passes. Their kids just played with a lot more heart than our kids in the second half.”
Farmington will travel to Newington next Friday in search of its first win. The Panthers will be at home, against Bridgeport Central.