PLAINVILLE — With Friday night's Mid-Continent League showdown against Phillipsburg going down to the wire, Plainville standouts Jordan Finnesy and Jared Casey took over in crunch time to lift the Cardinals to a statement win.
But Plainville's playmaking duo also received plenty of help from the supporting cast along the way, as the Cardinals pulled out a 21-14 win on Friday night in Plainville to end Phillipsburg's 14-game winning streak.
Casey had two receiving touchdowns and churned out key rushing yardage late to set up Finnesy's game-winning 15-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper with 1:08 left.
On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore Ben Hansen stripped the ball away from Phillipsburg and Parker Krob recovered the fumble to help seal the win for the 2-0 Cardinals, ranked No. 2 in Class 1A.
"Everyone played a part in this," Finnesy said. "I'd take my 11 over anyone — anyone."
Hansen's strip capped off a solid night from Planville's underclassmen. Sophomore defensive lineman Dakota Yost helped neutralize Phillipsburg's run game and sophomore defensive back Anderson Dewey intercepted Phillipsburg quarterback Ty Sides and returned it to near midfield with 3:51 left before the Cardinals came through with the game-winning drive.
"We tried giving some guys a break on both sides of the ball — we've still got six or seven that have to play both ways, but we've got a solid four or five that are only playing one way and we wanted to give them an opportunity to shine," Plainville coach Grant Stephenson said. "The young guys, it's your turn. We don't have a JV schedule and you're next."
Plainville kept its poise after some missed opportunities throughout the night. The Cardinals saw a handful of passes bounce off finger tips, and Finnesy had a touchdown run called back by a holding penalty in the third quarter.
“It gets frustrating, but if you don’t move on, then it’s just going to keep happening," Finnesy said of the missed chances. "That’s kind of what I have learned over the last couple of years — you just have to move on and play the next down.”
"When you see it go off the finger tips — it could be a potential touchdown — it's disappointing for sure, but there's just a composure we have to keep," Casey added.
Top-ranked Phillipsburg struck first when junior Kagen Keeten snagged a 16-yard touchdown pass from Sides on a fourth down with 8:04 left in the second quarter. Plainville knotted it up on Finnesy's 25-yard touchdown pass to Casey with 4:36 left before halftime.
Phillipsburg regained the lead late in the third quarter after another tough catch from Keeten helped set up Sides' 1-yard TD plunge. Finnesy and Casey then showed off their playmaking ability early in the fourth after Finnesy escaped a sack attempt and found Casey, who broke through tackles for a 13-yard TD to tie it at 14 with 9:36 left.
"I knew he was going to be open and I just kept missing," Finnesy said. "I was off for awhile. That was a really big one to just get us going."
"We have two really good playmakers that can make things happen, even on broken plays — that definitely helped out," Stephenson said.
Keeten intercepted Finnesy to thwart a Plainville drive at the Cardinals' 28 with 4:58 left, but Plainville got the ball right back on Dewey's pick.
The Cardinals fed the ball to Casey before Finnesy capped off the drive with the TD.
"I just kept trucking and they kept feeding me the ball," Casey said. "They kept calling that speed option over there — we weren't running speed option all night, we were running right up the middle. (The option) seemed to work, especially at the end of the game."
"I kind of figured it was going to be open, but I didn't want to be unnecessarily too greedy," Finnesy said of his game-winning touchdown run. "I kind of just waited a second, and then it opened up and I just bolted."
Casey finished with 90 yards rushing on 13 attempts and also caught seven passes for 96 yards with the two touchdowns.
Sides ran for 100 yards on 12 carries for Phillipsburg, which lost junior running back Clint Gower to an apparent knee injury with about five minutes left.
Phillipsburg coach J.B. Covington said Yost (6-foot-3, 290 pounds) was effective in disrupting the Panthers' running game.
"We were having a lot of trouble moving him," Yost said. "That's our point of attack on a lot of our inside run game, so we got to get that fixed. And I thought their linebackers plugged the gaps well."
It was Phillipsburg's first regular season loss since falling to Sedgwick in October of 2015. Covington said he's not worried about the Panthers being able to bounce back.
"Losses aren't that big of a deal this time of year," he said. "... I think the kids will really buckle down and get after it."
During the game, the Plainville student council sold snow cones to raise money for medical expenses for an 11-year Phillipsburg girl who recently fell into a coma after suffering a brain aneurysm. Stephenson help orchestrate the fund raiser.
"Plainville is a great community," Covington said. "They not only support their kids, they support community kids."