After being sidelined for two weeks with a broken hand, Plainville’s Jared Casey returned in a big way for the Cardinals in Friday night’s district opener against La Crosse.
Casey ran for four touchdowns as Plainville rolled to a 40-6 victory over the Leopards in Plainville.
The standout senior running back/linebacker suffered the injury in Week 3 against TMP-Marian and missed the next two games, including the Cardinals’ 40-14 loss to defending state champion Smith Center in Week 4.
Casey looked like a man on a mission from his first carry on Friday, rumbling for a 32-yard gain on his first attempt.
"It was a great time," Casey said. "I've been sitting on the sideline for the last couple weeks and it's been tough to watch. ... It was great being back out there with my brothers."
Casey, who is left-handed, wasn’t affected by the big cast he sported on his injured right hand, running for touchdowns of 11, 5, 15 and 19 yards to help Plainville move to 5-1 and hand La Crosse its first loss.
While frustrated by being sidelined, Casey said he tried to look at the bigger picture.
"I had many thoughts, like why did this happen to me, why my senior year? But in the end, it could have been worse," he said. "I just keep telling myself it could have been worse. I get the chance to play and I'm thankful for that."
Casey said he was unbothered by the protective cast.
"I really don't think about it during the game," he said. "I just go out there and make tackles and try to make plays for my team. (The broken hand is) doing really well. They told me to put in a cast and I could go out and play. Hopefully, in the next three to four weeks, I won't have to wear anything on it.
"I was jacked up coming out here, especially vs. La Crosse," Casey added. "It's always a big game for us, the first game of district. It's a good tone-setter for the rest of the season and we're just going to keep carrying momentum on to the next couple weeks."
The Cardinals led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter on touchdowns runs from Plainville quarterback Jordan Finnesy and Casey.
"I was pleased with the way we started the game. I thought we started well," Plainville coach Grant Stephenson said. "Thought we battled well on defense, aligned correctly. We did some of the smaller things right."
Casey’s 5-yard TD extended the lead to 21-0 before the Leopards (5-1) scored their lone touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Hunter Morgan to Cooper Barriger late in the second quarter.
Plainville stayed in control in the second half behind a pair of touchdowns runs from Casey and a second rushing TD by Finnesy.
The Cardinals limited the Leopards to 176 yards of offense.
"We just had to align correctly, that was the whole thing," Stephenson said. "They're very diverse on offense; they do a lot of stuff. We had to keep in check where (La Crosse's playmakers) were and we had certain guys on our defense aligned certain ways to help stop what they do.
"The secondary played well. We did have a few breakdowns, but I tell you what, La Crosse's quarterback (Morgan) has got one of the best arms that we've played against. I think they dropped a handful of balls that could have changed the game that he put right on the money. Our guys still played good defense but he put it right where it needed to be."
Stephenson credited his second-stringers for stepping up when called upon so far this season.
"We've had lot of bumps and bruises, but we've got a good second group that's ready to go," Stephenson said. "We often talk about how everybody's one play away from going in."
The Cardinals will continue Class 1A District 6 play at Ellis next week.
"I know what it's going to take to get to the level of play we need we want to get at, I still don't think we're quite there," Stephenson said. "It's going to take watching film on Monday and starting all over and finding ways to be a better us."
Keldon Day and Michael Showalter each had an interception for La Crosse. The Leopards will look to even its district mark at 1-1 next week at Oakley.