Rockies fall 21-8 at NorthWood

NAPPANEE — Between the distractions of Senior Night and Plymouth’s new offense, it took about a half for NorthWood to get rolling.
Bowling Green State recruit Coy Brown ran the ball seven straight times for 49 yards and a score at the 7:56 mark of the third quarter to give the host Panthers a 14-8 lead, and a fourth-quarter interception and 26-yard return by defensive back Brayden Troxel set up a three-play, 13-yard scoring drive that ended the Rockies hopes of a victory in a 21-8 regular season closer at NorthWood Friday night.
“We haven’t handled distractions real well with this team,” said NorthWood Head Football Coach Scott Hoover. “I feel like the two worst games that we’ve played this year have been our homecoming game and our senior night where you take us out of the routine. That’s something we need to get better at.
“We were lined up wrong on a few of our defensive plays, so we did have to make that adjustment, but the main thing was just coming out and being ready to play and being more physical. We challenged our seniors on Senior Night to come through and play a little bit tougher, and I think they did.”
While Plymouth (3-6, 2-5 NLC) was unable to snap its skid and closed out the season with a fifth-straight Northern Lakes Conference loss, the Rockies did accomplish something of a moral victory at NorthWood (6-3, 4-3 NLC), remaining right in the game until the closing minutes.
“I take a lot of positives out of tonight,” said Plymouth coach John Barron. “We put a new offense in. We kept some base plays but really a new formation, couple of new terminologies here and there with our passing game and running game. I thought our kids played really hard. I can’t fault their effort. NorthWood’s a good football team.”
Plymouth took the initial lead with a 13-play, 63-yard scoring drive on its first possession capped off by an Ike Kastner 2-yard keeper at the 2:57 mark of the opening frame. Kastner lofted a high lob to 6-foot-9 sophomore Mack Mercer in the corner of the end zone, and Mercer tipped the pass up one-handed and came down with the two-point conversion catch to give the Rockies an 8-0 lead.
Brown and fellow NorthWood senior back Andrew Hahn split the carries on a seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive capped off by a Brown 5-yarder at the 8:53 stop of the second quarter, but following Brendan Widner’s extra-point kick, the Rockies still held onto a tenuous 8-7 halftime lead.
After Brown’s second score of the night in the third quarter it was still anybody’s game, but a Rockies’ fourth-down conversion attempt from 3 yards out at the Plymouth 37 halted a short drive in the third quarter, and Troxel’s decisive interception and the ensuing NorthWood touchdown put Plymouth down by two scores. The Plymouth defense came up with a big fumble recovery with 5:15 on the game clock, but the Rockies again came up just short on a fourth-and-1 to turn over on downs at the NorthWood 11 on their final drive of the night with 2:25 remaining.
“The interception was big,” said Barron. “We’ve got to get Ike in a position where he’s throwing the ball more so he can read things. We’ve got to work on that in practice. But they came out in a run-heavy front defense in the second half. The wind was in our face, so it was hard to throw the ball in the third quarter and unfortunately they got up on us, and they kept the lead.”
The 6-foot, 220-pound Brown finished with 139 of NorthWood’s 210 rushing yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns to lead all rushers.
“Coy is huge to be able to break some of the tackles that he did. He is such a physical presence in there,” said Hoover.
With Sam Stevens seeing limited action in the first half and completely sidelined in the second half with a knee injury, Jordan Knapp carried the mail for Plymouth, amassing 76 yards on 28 rushes. Stevens’ status is uncertain as he closes the regular season as Plymouth’s leading rusher with 888 yards.
“I thought Jordan played really well for us,” Barron said. “He played hard. He’s a good athlete, and we knew going in that we were going to use him on both sides of the ball. Our big concern right now is with Sam and seeing where he’s at, but I think those other guys can run the football well, too.”
NorthWood closes the regular season at 6-3 with a 4-3 NLC mark. The Panthers are hoping to avenge a 20-12 loss in Week 5 as they open Class 4A Sectional 11 play at home against conference rival Wawasee next week.
“We’re excited to play Wawasee,” said Hoover. “We played a close game with them here earlier in the year, and our kids are excited to get another shot at them. We’re ready to go.”
Plymouth finishes out the regular season with a 3-6 overall record and a 2-5 NLC mark. While they didn’t get the win they were hoping for Friday, the Rockies still have plenty of positives to take away to next week’s Sectional 11 opener at Angola.
“I’m really proud of the kids. I thought they responded well. They’ve faced a lot of adversity all year long,” said Barron.
“To be honest, after last weekend and the game with Goshen, I told our staff we had two weeks to put in our offense. Obviously, we wanted to come over here and win the game, but we really wanted to focus on our effort and just our team chemistry. I think we made great strides in that, and I just told our guys ‘Everybody right now has the same record; everybody right now has 0 wins, 0 losses.’ That’s what we’re going to hang our hat on, and that’s what we’re going to go to work with tomorrow morning.
At Nappanee
Score by quarters
Plymouth: 8 0 0 0 — 8
NorthWood: 0 7 7 7 — 21
Scoring summary
First quarter
Plymouth — Ike Kastner 2-yd run (Kastner pass to Mack Mercer) 2:57
Second quarter
NorthWood — Coy Brown 5-yd run (Brendan Widner kick) 8:53
Third quarter
NorthWood — Brown 2-yd run (Widner kick) 7:56
Fourth quarter
NorthWood — Zac Coleman 2-yd run (Widner kick) 9:30
Team stats
Rushing: 51-127; Jordan Knapp 28-76, Sam Stevens 11-30, Cole Mann 3-29
Passing: Kastner 6-13-1 for 36 yds
Receiving: Kyser McCrammer 4-26
First downs: 12
Penalties-yds lost: 2-12
Rushing: 44-210; Brown 18-139, Andrew Hahn 13-36, Coleman 11-30
Passing: Coleman 0-2-0
First downs: 10
Fumbles-lost: 2-1
Penalties-yds lost: 2-10
Records: Plymouth 3-6 (2-5 NLC), NorthWood 6-3 (4-3 NLC)