EAST HARTFORD, Sept. 30 – The Simsbury High football continues to come close to winning football games. Very close. But victories continue to elude the Trojans.
East Hartford stopped an attempted two-point conversion run with 2:21 remaining in the game to preserve a one-point lead and also batted down a pass at the 10-yard line with no time remaining to hold on for a 13-12 victory at the newly-resurfaced Edward T. Knurek Memorial Field Friday night.
A week ago, Simsbury (0-4) had an 18-point lead over undefeated Hall only to see the Warriors rally with 22 unanswered points to earn the win.
“It’s all part of the process,” Simsbury coach Dave Masters said. “We have to go through all of this adversity. If the kids can stick with the plan, believe in the plan and keep believing, we’ll be OK.
“This was a needed effort,” he said. “They didn’t quit. They executed. It’s just a few small things that we can clean up and we’ll go hard at practice.”
Simsbury did some good things in a steady but light rain that soaked the footballs and created several fumbles. East Hartford (3-1) just made a few more plays than the Trojans.
The Trojans scored on their opening possession, marching 61 yards on 11 plays with Ralph Gilliard scoring on a three-yard run. A 17-yard pass from QB Riley Shanley to Sean Penney on fourth and five on the East Hartford 21 keep the drive alive. The extra point attempt was just wide and Simsbury led, 6-0.
East Hartford tied the game less than two minutes later on a 59-yard touchdown pass from QB Juan Torres to Dante Sprouse. The Hornets also missed the extra point and it was tied 6-6.
The Hornets took advantage of a mistake to take a 13-6 lead. The wet ball slipped through the hands of punter Jake Taddio and hit the turf. Taddio recovered the ball but was tackled on the Simsbury 11-yard line. It took East Hartford three plays to score with Deshawn Givens powering in from the two-yard line with 4:33 left in the second quarter. Chris Breault added the extra point for East Hartford.
East Hartford maintained control of the game for long stretches, running the ball behind Givens (96 yards on 23 carries) and Kevon Jones (15-78). Givens is normally an All-State caliber wide receiver but he was in the backfield due to early season injuries. “We know that if we get a (running) lane, any one of our running backs can be gone,” East Hartford coach Rick Milton said.
The slick conditions caused by the rain grounded plans to throw the ball more but the Hornets were content to leave the ball in Givens’ hands. “(Givens) is our All-State wide receiver who is one of the best players on our team. He is getting looks from some Division I schools,” Milton said.
Simsbury cut the lead to one point late in the fourth quarter. On third down and seven on their own 28-yard line, Shanley completed a 17-yard pass to Gilliard for a first down to keep the drive moving. Two plays later, Penney broke through the offensive line and raced down the right sideline with a 46-yard touchdown run with 2:21 remaining
But on the two-point conversion run, the East Hartford defensive line led by Anthony Dillard overwhelmed Simsbury. Three Hornet tacklers met Penney at the five-yard line before he could get anywhere near the end zone to preserve the one-point lead.
After the kickoff, Givens gained 12 yards on first down to the Hornet 47 yard line. Simsbury stiffened and forced a punt but there was just 54 seconds left when the Trojans got the ball back.
Shanley (11-52 rushing) scrambled for a 23-yard gain to the Simsbury 45-yard line with 14 seconds left. After an incompletion and a five-yard penalty for a false start, Shanley competed a five-yard pass to Penney to the Simsbury 45 as time expired.
However, an East Hartford player was penalized for a late hit, giving Simsbury one more untimed play. Shanley’s pass was batted down at the East Hartford 10-yard line to end the contest.
Penney led the way for the Trojans on the ground, racing for 92 yards on 17 carries. He also caught five passes for 29 yards. “He’s as good as any player (out here),” Masters said. “He can run. He can catch. We’re so confident in his ability that we were calling little screen passes and dropping it in to him so he could make a play. We want the ball in his hands to make a play.”
Gilliard caught four passes 48 yards. Shanley completed 9-of-15 passes for 70 yards.
Defensively, Penney recovered a fumble to stop one East Hartford drive in the second quarter while Jackson King had two tackles for losses. Shanley and Christian Gay each had a tackle for a loss. Gillard slapped down a potential East Hartford touchdown pass at the one-yard line in the third quarter to end another drive.
“This was a game we can build on,” Masters said. “We fought (hard) and we did what we wanted to do.”
NOTES: East Hartford is looking to make a run toward its first playoff berth since 2000. “We’re happy but we’re not satisfied,” Milton said. “The kids are still hungry.” Starting QB Sergio Rodriguez was hurt earlier this year but is healthy and ready to hit the field, giving the Hornets additional offensive weapons. Givens can move back to wide receiver. … East Hartford’s victory was just the second one-point decision in the long history of the series between the two schools that dates back to 1910. Simsbury beat the Hornets by one, 27-26, in 2006. The win cuts Simsbury’s overall lead in the series to 18-14-3. … Before East Hartford’s 38-0 win over the Trojans a year ago, Simsbury had won nine straight – the longest such streak in the series’ history. … The game was the first contest on the new artificial turf surface at East Hartford High. The Hornets beat Conard at Wethersfield, 30-24, two weeks ago. … Simsbury travels to New Britain next Friday night for a contest at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Hornets lost to New Britain in week one, 14-9.
East Hartford 13, Simsbury 12
At East Hartford
Simsbury (0-4) 6 0 0 6 — 12
East Hartford (3-1) 7 6 0 0 — 13
S: Ralph Gilliard 3 run (kick wide), 7:14
EH: Dane Sprouse 59 pass from Juan Torres (Chris Beault kick), 5:02
EH: Deshawn Givens 2 run (kick failed), 4:43
S: Sean Penney 46 run (run fails), 2:21
RUSHING: Simsbury – Sean Penney 17-92, Riley Shanely 11-52, Jackson Masters 1-minus 9, Spencer Meace 101, Ralph Gilliard 2-3, Team 1-minus 8; East Hartford – Kevon Jones 15-78, Deshawn Givens 23-96, Justin McCray 3-15, Juan Torres 1-0, Kevoughn Mills 1-2, Lorenzo Alexander 8-20
PASSING: Simsbury – Riley Shanely 9-15-0, 70; Jackson Masters 2-9-0, 18; East Hartford – Juan Torres 2-7-0, 45
RECEIVING: Simsbury – Ralph Gilliard 4-48, Sean Penney 5-29, Riley Shanely 1-1, Jackson Butler 1-9; East Hartford – Vincent Gugliotti 1-19. Givens 1-4
RETURNS: Penney (S) 1-25 (kickoff), Alex Haggerty (S) 1-7 (kickoff); FUMBLE RECOVERY: Penney (S); SACK: Mark Green Robinson (EH) 1-9; TACKLE FOR LOSS: Jackson King (S) 2-3, Christian Gay (S) 1-2; Riley Shanely (S) 1-1