PLAINVILLE — Going into Friday night, the Plainville High School football team looked to capture its first win of the season.
Though 0-3 before Friday, the Cardinals faced some of the toughest opponents they’ll see all year — three teams from the MCL which were a combined 8-1 after three weeks.
Visiting Thomas More Prep-Marian, on the other hand, was looking to get a bounce-back win after a blowout loss to Smith Center last week. Although the Monarchs kept the game close, a first quarter burst from Plainville simply was too much to overcome as the Cardinals picked up a 24-6 win, their first of the season.
Carrying the load for the Cardinals was senior Hayden Gillum. The offensive lineman turned running back for the evening had 21 carries for 152 yards and two touchdowns, not to mention he led the team in tackles with seven, including two tackles for loss along with a punt block.
He did all of that while missing a large portion of the second half due to cramps, which is no surprise after making such a big transition.
“That was definitely a big factor,” Gillum said. “I’m looking to be in better shape next week and a little more hydrated.”
After the rough 0-3 start — 16-7, 40-10 and 41-0 losses to Smith Center, Norton and Phillipsburg — the Cardinals believe they’ve got some momentum going.
“Those first three games, we just knew we had to be patient. Each game we were building off those,” Gillum said. “We played three amazing teams. Our team knew that if we just stayed patient and kept working on things coach told us to work on, we could pull out a win.”
Cardinal coach Grant Stephenson knows it’s still a long road ahead if Plainville has any hopes of repeating last year’s run in the Class 2-1A playoffs.
“A win is always nice. We still have plenty that we have to work on, but it does feel good and it raises spirits a little bit,” the third-year coach said. “TMP’s a good team, hats off to them. They didn’t give up. They fought hard right up to the end of the game.”
The Cardinals came out and pounced on the Monarchs right away. TMP received the opening kick but went three-and-out. Plainville put together a 10-play, 52-yard drive that stalled inside the 10-yard line. They settled for a field goal as Tanner Copeland knocked it through the uprights at the 5:33 mark.
On TMP’s first play of its second possession, the Monarchs had the ball stripped and recovered by Plainville. The Cardinals wasted no time, as quarterback Jordan Finnesy found Chase Cellmer for a 34-yard touchdown pass on first down, only 20 seconds after the field goal.
TMP went three-and-out again, and Plainville capitalized. The Cardinals were able to break off a few 10-yard runs — one from Chandler Cellmer and another from Gillum. Chase Cellmer then made a great catch on a 28-yard pass from Finnesy down to the 1-yard line, where Gillum would punch it in the next play.
By the 1:45 mark of the first quarter, Plainville had a 17-0 lead.
That was the last score by the Cardinals until the 7:43 mark of the third quarter. Gillum found the end zone from 18 yards out for his second touchdown of the night.
TMP was able to find some success offensively in the second half; however, they were not able to translate that into enough points as they scored their first touchdown with just more than 8 minutes to go when David McFarland found Tate Garcia in the end zone.
“That first half was absolutely ugly,” TMP coach Jason Cauley said. “Our defense did fairly well in some aspects of the game, but third-and-long was not one of them.
“On offense, we came out flat. … As a coaching staff, we have to figure out how we get our boys to start strong.”
The Monarchs outgained the Cardinals by 2 yards, with a total of 311, and ran 17 more plays. McFarland was 30-of-55 passing for 248 yards. Gavin Schumacher led the way on the ground for the Monarchs with 15 carries for 79 yards, while Creighton Renz led the way in receiving with seven receptions for 61 yards.
For the Cardinals, Finnesy was 3-of-9 for 71 yards and a touchdown, while Chase Cellmer had two catches for 61 yards and a TD.
Plainville is at home again in Week 5 against Belleville-Republic County (0-4), while TMP (1-3) returns to Lewis Field Stadium for a Friday date with Cimarron (2-2).