ENFIELD, Nov. 4 – A little over a year ago, Simsbury senior Danny Deitz was in a Boston hospital fighting to live. He was on an operating table at Boston Children’s Hospital getting a heart transplant.
He had hoped to be playing football with his friends on the Simsbury High football team as they had dreamed of since they were youngsters playing Pop Warner football. Deitz needed a new heart because his heart was damaged by cardiomyopathy. His heart was enlarged and unable to pump blood properly.
On Friday night, Deitz brought tears to the eyes of the fans of the Trojans. He filled his teammates and his coach David Masters with great joy, catching a pair of passes including a seven-yard touchdown in the third quarter as Simsbury won their fourth straight game with a 52-14 win over Enfield.
Deitz underwent successful heart transplant surgery last September. The 6-foot-2 wide receiver got the clearance to play football earlier this year. He caught his first pass a week ago in a win over Bulkeley/Weaver/HMTCA.
Against Enfield, Deitz caught his second pass of the year, a 14-yard reception from Masters and drove to the Enfield 7-yard-line. It took five Eagle players to bring him to the ground. On the next play, Deitz lined up on the right side, did a move to shake his defender and caught a seven-yard pass from QB Jackson Masters in the end zone.
The smiles were endless from Deitz and his teammates. The celebration was a bit longer than usual but no one minded.
pic.twitter.com/RhasasIQeo. The comeback is complete! Dan had is first TD catch 14 months out of heart transplant. He is my hero.
— Terry Deitz (@deitz_terry) November 5, 2016
“That was pure joy when he scored that touchdown,” Simsbury coach Dave Masters said. “That was some magic tonight.”
It was a tough few weeks last September when Deitz was home waiting for a transplant. “I remember those first days in the hospital,” Masters said and paused. “This is a long way from that dark place, I’ll tell you that.”
When he was younger, Deitz dreamed of playing Division I football in college. He grew up playing youth football with his friends. He thought he would never play again.
“This was his passion. This is what he lived for,” Danny’s father, Terry Deitz said. “He comes home from practice every day and he is just elated – just with practice. He’s with his friends and his buddies. This is the good stuff. He has two more games in his life. We’re happy he is alive. We never thought he would play again and he scored his first touchdown. You can’t beat that.”
Danny wasn’t thinking about his new heart when he was playing. “I was making sure I remember my plays and not messing up,” he said.
He was thrilled to score the touchdown. “It’s amazing. There are no words,” Danny Deitz said. “I’m out here playing the sport I love with my best friends and my brothers.”
Deitz’s touchdown put a bow on Simsbury’s lopsided victory over a young Enfield team (1-7). The Trojans (4-4) were a bit sloppy, especially in the first half with several penalties. But Simsbury had Sean Penney, who ran for a game-high 161 yards and a career-high four touchdowns on 17 carries.
Enfield struggled to bring down the hard-running back who ran over players, faked them out and cut back against the grain for big gains. “He is a bruiser and he can run,” Dave Masters said. “He is just a football player and he has a lot of pent-up energy (after missing his junior season with an injury).
Quarterback Riley Shanley completed 9-of-13 passes for 184 yards and two touchdown passes (14, 49 yards) to Ralph Gilliard in the first quarter when Simsbury raced out to a 20-0 lead. Simsbury forced three Enfield turnovers in the first quarter (two interceptions and a fumble).
Enfield, in its first season after merging with Fermi, scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter to pull within 12 points at halftime, 26-14. One came with six seconds left in the half.
Penney ran for three touchdowns in the second half as Simsbury (4-4) took command of this CCC Division I contest. After beginning the season with a 0-4, the Trojans have won four straight contests. They’ll conclude the season with games against Glastonbury and Avon at the Valley Gridiron Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 22 in Simsbury.
Another view of Danny's D catch… pic.twitter.com/wiM9m2P5GD
— Simsbury Trojan Football (@masters_coach) November 5, 2016
NOTES: It was the most points scored by a single team in the series that began in 1921. The two teams had not played since 1983 when both were members of the Central Connecticut Interscholastic League (CCIL). Both moved into the Central Connecticut Conference but they were placed in different divisions. Simsbury leads the overall series, 11-7-1 and has won the last six games between the two schools. Enfield is back in the CCC for the first time since the early 2000s. The Eagles left the league for the NCCC. But with the merger of Enfield and Fermi, the newly-renamed Eagles moved back into the CCC.
Simsbury 52, Enfield 21
Simsbury (4-4) 20 6 19 7 — 52
Enfield (1-7) 0 14 0 7 — 21
S: Sean Penney 1 run (George Matteo kick), 9:33
S: Ralph Gilliard 14 pass from Riley Shanley (kick failed), 3:11
S: Gilliard 49 pass from Shanley (Matteo kick), 0:51
E: Collin DeBarber 9 pass from Mason Dumas (Nick Critz kick), 8:27
S: Shanley 1 run (kick wide), 4:14
E: Garrett Ritchie 2 pass from Dumas (Critz kick), 0:06
S: Penney 27 run (kick blocked), 9:28
S: Penney 25 run (kick wide), 5:56
S: Danny Deitz 7 pass from Jackson Masters (Jackson Butler kick), 1:30
S: Penney 15 run (Spencer Meace kick), 8:19
E: DeBarber 13 pass from Dumas (Critz kick), 2:14
RUSHING: Simsbury – Sean Penney 17-161, Jackson Masters 1-17, Riley Shanley 11-59; Team 2-minus 24; Enfield – Mason Dumas 11-65, Collin Atwood 4-15, Josh Buvelot 1-1
PASSING: Simsbury – Riley Shanley 9-13-0, 184, Jackson Masters 4-7-1, 63; Enfield – Mason Dumas 11-28-2, 92
RECEIVING: Simsbury – Danny Deitz 2-21, Riley Shanley 1-36, Sean Penney 1-27, Connor Ahrens 2-19, Ralph Gilliard 5-102, Jackson Butler 1-8, Alex Haggerty 1-36; Enfield – Mike Tweedlie (E) 1-minus 1, Collin DeBarber (E) 6-56, Josh Buvelot (E) 2-36, Garrett Ritchie (E) 1-2, Collin Atwood (E) 1-minus 1
RETURNS: Kickoff – Haggerty (S) 3-46, DeBarber (E) 2-15, Buvelot (E) 6-95; Punts – Penney (S) 1-5
FUMBLE RECOVERY: Patrick Aldrich (S); INTERCEPTIONS: George Matteo (S) 1-0, Ralph Gilliard (S) 1-0; Mike Tweedlie (E) 1-31