NHIAA D-IV Football Championship: Plymouth outlasts Trinity for Lenahan's 19th title
With just 49 seconds remaining in a scoreless regulation game, Bobcats quarterback Collin Sullivan, rolling to his left, lofted a 27-yard scoring strike to the most unlikely of receivers, Ryan Farina, who snared the long toss and bulled his way into the end zone for the only touchdown of the game.
The catch, Farina's third reception of the year, gave Plymouth a 7-0 triumph and the Division IV state title over Manchester's Trinity High School in a rematch of last year's championship fray.
The waggle play sends one receiver, tight end Farina, deep down the field while several other receivers run shorter routes five and 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
"The short guys are the primary receivers," said Farina after the Bobcats victory celebration. "But as soon as I got off the line of scrimmage and past the defense, I knew I would be open."
Sullivan appeared to be running the ball on the play and induced several Pioneer defenders to come up toward the line to prevent his progress.
"We were just trying to get something going, but we were able to go deep with it," said Plymouth coach Chuck Lenahan.
The catch capped a perfect 11-0 season for the Bobcats and their 13th undefeated campaign under the direction of the 42-year veteran coach. His teams have won 19 state championships and he is the winningest coach in New England scholastic football history with a record of 345-69-1.
The loss was difficult for Trinity, which finished the season with an enviable 9-2 record. However, both losses were at the hands of Plymouth, and Saturday was the first time all season long that the Pioneers failed to score a point.
In addition, defensive stalwart Jonathan Graveline suffered an apparent severe leg injury and was removed from the field by ambulance.
"A game doesn't come down to one play," said Trinity coach Steve Burns. "We had opportunities, but they came up with the touchdown. We got punched in the mouth the first time we played them (36-14 loss) and then Jon got hurt. We could have folded, but we didn't."
The defensive battle was scoreless entering the fourth period, but Trinity moved the ball smartly, behind a series of Romeo Masuku runs, from midfield to the Plymouth 10-yard line before being faced with a fourth down and four yards to go situation.
The Pioneers opted to go for it rather than kick a field goal, and the Plymouth defense wrapped up Masuku for a two-yard loss and a turnover on downs. It was the second time Trinity failed to gain needed yardage on a fourth-down play.
"I believe in the kids, and they wanted to go for it, so we did," explained Burns.
Plymouth's best scoring opportunity, prior to the "800 waggle", came midway through the second quarter when running backs Brandon Goodale, Jared Kuehl and John Thomas lugged the ball from their own 37 to the Trinity two.
On fourth down, Sullivan called his own number, but Pioneer defenders Masuku and Ian Landry stopped the Plymouth QB on the one.
Both coaches lauded the defenses.
"Without a doubt, that was our best defensive effort of the season," said Burns, and Lenahan echoed, "Did the defenses come to play or what?"
Goodale led all rushers with 90 yards on 21 carries while Kuehl and Thomas each gained at least 45 yards. The Trinity foursome of Masuku, Ryan Carrier, Austin Chambers and quarterback Carmen Giampetruzzi combined for 101 yards on 39 carries.
Lenahan said of Goodale, who has rushed for more than 1,300 yards this season, "I've coached some great leaders and ball players over the years, but Brandon's a special, special kid."
Burns simply said of Masuku and Carrier, "Both of those guys are absolute warriors and they played their hearts out."
NOTES: Plymouth coach Chuck Lenahan said, "There is nothing more special than an undefeated season. Our goal was to get to the playoffs, and the kids took over from there." As far as his victory total, he said, "It's the seniors and all the kids from the prior years, wearing their old jerseys, coming back to support us that really matters." This year's Plymouth squad was the 30th team Lenahan has taken to the state finals.
Farina finished the season with three receptions, two for touchdowns, and his quarterback, Sullivan, concluded the campaign with 12 TD tosses. ... Farina recovered a Trinity fumble on the Pioneers second series. ...Plymouth's Kyle Reisert, who was hampered by a recent hand injury, sacked Trinity quarterback Carmen Giampetruzzi twice. ...In the QB battle, Sullivan was 4-for-5 for 62 yards while Giampeteruzzi was 2-for-6 for 20. ...Giampetruzz tossed one interception, just his third of the season. ...The Pioneers were guilty of two turnovers, the Bobcats one.
Trinity has played for the state title in three of the past four years. Since 2008, the Pioneers have posted a 46-8 record.