This day belonged to Lewis Mills
BRISTOL - Athletic Director Dave Tanner was pumped up about the attendance while coach Pete Flammia was wearing out a smile about his team. Out near the left field warning track, or on this day the end zone, a bunch of mighty proud Spartans were glowing in satisfaction.
Saturday at in Bristol was clearly a Lewis Mills day.
Nobody is putting this group of Spartans that do their business with the oblong ball on the same level as Maggie Tieman’s field hockey program, the boys soccer program or the superb girls soccer tradition nurtured by Hal Lindert and carried on by Dennis Fowler.
But you have to start somewhere and Mills kicked off its varsity football program in pretty swanky style Saturday, winning the battle of two schools playing their first ever varsity football game with a 20-13 victory over Granby.
There wasn’t a whole lot that went wrong for the Spartans this day. The people came (a more than respectable 440 supportive bodies), the weather cooperated and the football, well, it was the winning kind.
The first varsity game was going to be big just by virtue that it happened. But a victory, now that was sweet. Flammia called it like winning the . He doesn’t get to go to Disney World instead he gets to take a bus to Deep River to play Valley Regional. But he gets to feel really good for a while as does his team. Who needs Mickey.
There was at times a JV nature to the game, which is more than understandable not just for the first varsity contest ever but for the first game. Interceptions (a combined total of six), fumbles and consistent penalties, particularly in the first half, were not in short supply.
But, both teams regrouped and the second half provided plenty of solid and consistent play. And on the Spartan side, a couple of elements that will suit them well down the road were readily evident.
Start with a rare maturity. Mills ran 19 plays to just six for Granby in the first quarter. Two of Granby’s plays were interceptions, yet the Bears led, 7-6, scoring on an their off pick-off from deep in Spartan territory. That type of stuff might deflate a first-year varsity program.
said, `big deal.’ Dave Orie, who quickly emerged as a threat opponents are going to have to monitor closely, took the ensuing kick-off back 52 yards, fumbled only to have teammate Tyler Pragosa recover at the 10-yard line. A little bit of good fortune doesn’t hurt either.
Mills scored on a two-yard run from Dylan Celone several plays later and it was a new game. The Spartans added a score before the half on a perfect roll right scoring strike from sophomore quarterback Zane Milbourn to Mr. Orie.
The second half was Spartan domination. The defense, outstanding all day behind the play of Orie, Mike Shea and Parker Colby, held the Bears to just 97 yards in the half, 51 coming on a late TD pass.
Orie picked off three passes on the day while Shea and Colby from their spots on the front line, spent half to their day in the grill of every Granby runner.
“They did a nice job on our sweeps and inside runs. It was a tough defense, give them credit,” said Granby coach Paul Schmutz.
Shea chose to credit the Spartan coaching staff for the defensive effort.
“They did a great job. (Granby’s) players didn’t seem to happy,” said Shea.
Well, one yard and a hunk of Muzzy Field turf stuffed up your helmet probably wouldn’t make anyone happy.
The Spartans’ offense put together their best moment of the day late in the third quarter when it went on a textbook 14-play, 58-yard drive capped off by Orie’s 5-yard run to take a 20-7 lead on the second play of the fourth quarter.
“The offense line stepped it up,” noted Flammia.
There was one final time for adversity to win out when the defense had its one breakdown of the day as Gipper Gailor connected with Sean Waterbury over the middle for a 51-yard TD pass on a fourth-and-14 from the 49-yard line with 3:06 to go.
The idea of a horrific ending did enter the thinking, but there was no panic. Mills held on to the ball until there was one second left as Milbourn picked up a key first down with a run around the right side on third down play.
Hey coach, you’re not supposed to have this much poise are you? At least at this point.
“Last year we would have went into the tank,” admitted Flammia. “We worked on that in the preseason. .We talked about staying positive. In scrimmages we were down and able to fight back.”
The Spartans will find plenty of things to work on in practice this week. But they walked off Muzzy Field Saturday feeling pretty good and deservedly so.
They came back. The defense was superb. There were a host of individual efforts to note starting with Orie (three picks, two TDs) and moving on to Shea, Colby and others.
It may have only been a start. But it was a darn good start. It was a Lewis Mills day Saturday at Muzzy and you get the idea that they may have a few more of them along the way.