BROOKVILLE — Ell-Saline coach Terry King certainly wasn’t disappointed with his team’s performance during Friday night’s Class 2-1A quarterfinal with Plainville.
King’s only disappointment came in the fact his Cardinals will not be playing again next week.
Ell-Saline rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to force overtime, but Plainville came up with the big defensive stops in two extra periods to take a 27-20 victory.
“We asked our kids to go out and give their best effort, and I think we got a heck of an effort from them tonight,” King said.
“They all gave a great effort, and it was a fun game. The only thing wrong was the score at the end.”
Plainville (8-3) advances to next week’s 2-1A state semifinals to face Smith Center. Ell-Saline, whose only regular season loss came against Smith Center, had its season come to an end with Friday’s loss.
“Ell-Saline made plays when they needed to make plays and so did we,” Plainville coach Grant Stephenson said. “Both teams shot themselves in the foot at times as well.
“The ball just fell a little more on our side tonight.”
After neither team scored in the first overtime, Plainville got what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a 10-yard quarterback sweep to the left sideline from Jordan Finnesy on the first play in the second overtime.
“In the first overtime we ran the same three plays and didn’t punch it in,” Finnesy said. “Our fullback, Jared Casey, said this would be open so coach called it and my teammates made good blocks.”
Ell-Saline gained only 3 yards on its first three plays in the second overtime, but Plainville was called for pass interference in the end zone on the fourth-down attempt. Given one more play from the 4-yard line, running back Luke Parks was stopped for no gain and Plainville players and fans were able to start their celebration.
“I think we needed to make one more play,” King said. “We had kids in position to make plays, and those kids played with about everything they had.
“We made plays on defense and made some on offense, but we could have made a few more.”
“We were depending on each other and playing as a team,” Plainville linebacker Jaron Rathbun said. “We never get down and play for the person beside you. They are playing for you, and you are playing for them.”
Twice in the past three weeks, Ell-Saline was able to rally from double-digit deficits in the second half to pick up victories over Sacred Heart and Sedgwick. Down 20-10 at halftime Friday night, Ell-Saline held Plainville scoreless in the second half to give itself a chance.
Nick Davenport had four carries for 89 yards in Ell-Saline’s 93-yard scoring drive in the third quarter, including a 1-yard touchdown run that closed the deficit to three.
Eric Rincon then got his team even with a 41-yard field goal with 9:50 remaining in regulation. Both teams had two more possessions in the fourth quarter but could not break the tie.
Ell-Saline got the game started the way it wanted, getting two defensive stops and scoring on its first two possessions to take an early lead.
Rincon's 44-yard field goal on the opening possession put his team up 3-0. Ell-Saline added to that advantage when Davenport, scrambling on a third-and-8 play, found Sawyer Kramer open behind the defense for a 72-yard touchdown pass with 3:24 to play in the first quarter.
Plainville turned things around with 20 unanswered points in the second quarter. Finnesy's 15-yard keeper put his team on the board for the first time, while Casey had touchdown carries of 1 and 7 yards later in the period to make it 20-10 Plainville at halftime.
“We came out and had a couple of turnovers, but we had to keep our heads up,” Finnesy said. “The team did a good job of staying up and fighting until the end.
“I think how much heart we have came out in overtime.”
Finnesy finished with 125 yards rushing, and Casey added 65 for Plainville. Davenport threw for 164 yards and had another 123 rushing for Ell-Saline, with Parks making three catches for 73 yards.
Ell-Saline’s finished the season 8-2, and its seven wins in the regular season were the most by a Cardinals team since 2008.
“These kids didn’t disappoint me at all,” King said. “Every game we played this year, they had to work for.
“This senior class has been a good class, and this was a good bunch of kids. They wanted to help each other.”