WILTON — Penalties, inconsistent offense and sloppy special teams play plagued Platt in a 32-14 Connecticut Football Alliance loss to Wilton on the road Friday night.
Despite the loss, the defense displayed a lot of grit and determination to keep the Panthers in the game against an unbeaten squad that had scored 82 points in its first two games.
The Panthers were also the first opponent to score on Wilton (3-0).
“Defensively, we played pretty well,” said Platt coach Jason Bruenn. “The kids played with heart. We just have to be more consistent on offense. We can’t keep putting our defense in bad situations.
“This game could have been way out of control early on, but our defense kept us in the game.”
The loss puts the Panthers at 1-1 heading into Friday’s CCC Tier 3 game at Avon.
In Wilton, the host Warriors drew first blood near the end of the second quarter on a 3-yard-touchdown run by quarterback Joey Hagerty. On the prior play, Hagerty connected on a 36-yard completion to tight end Luke Umphred.
After a three-and-out by Platt, the Warriors scored again on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Hagerty to wide receiver Cole Stevenson.
The bleeding did not stop.
Platt kick return specialist Amari Robinson took the ensuing kickoff all the way to the end zone, but the touchdown was negated by the dreaded yellow flag. An illegal block put the Panthers back on their 30-yard line.
“I have to look at the film on that one,” Bruenn said. “If they called it, it must have been a penalty. I don’t know. They said our guy tackled him to the ground, so I don’t know.”
Platt’s offense went three-and-out and Wilton’s special teams unit got its big-play chance. After a snap that bounced on the ground before it got to the punter, the Warriors blocked the punt and returned it for a touchdown, making the score 19-0.
“We just had a snap that was a little short and we didn’t block a guy,” Bruenn said. “Obviously, the next one gave them good field position.”
After the next Platt drive stalled, the Warriors recovered a high snap on the ensuing punt and took over at the Panther 30.
What could have been a nightmare turned into a wakeup call. With the help of a second-down holding penalty, the Panthers defense prevented Wilton from scoring.
On the next drive, the Platt defense had a major goalline stand to keep the Warriors out of the end zone right before halftime, and it led to a major momentum shift going into the third quarter.
Platt’s defense stymied Wilton on its first two possessions of the second half. Then, the special teams unit got its revenge.
Robinson blocked a Wilton punt and the loose ball was picked up and returned for a touchdown by Landon Freemantle, making the score 19-7.
“That’s two games in a row that [Freemantle] has picked up fumbles despite being one of our slowest guys,” Bruenn said.
The Panthers defense had another goalline stop when Tion Wright came up with a fourth-down interception.
Following the defense’s resolve, Platt’s offense responded. Quarterback Melvin Angel Sanchez threw a screen pass to tight end Jayden Vega, who proceeded to break several tackles for an explosive 59-yard touchdown.
The comeback was officially on at 19-14.
“It was about time,” Bruenn said. “We’d like to give [Vega] the ball a lot more. We’re going to try to find ways to give him the ball because, obviously, when he runs, he makes plays. He’s not the fastest guy, but he looked very swift-footed out there.”
Unfortunately for the Panthers, their exhausted defense ran out of steam in the end. Wilton scored two more touchdowns and Platt was unable to respond.
“We have to bounce back from this, and we have to figure out how to play better as a team,” Bruenn said. “We’ve got to move the ball more efficiently offensively, but our defense I think plays very well. I just think that they were on the field a lot today.”