Rockies top Rochester, 28-20

ROCHESTER — After last week’s disappointing season-opener with Bremen, Plymouth was looking to see some improvement from its defense.
The Rockies made some big plays on defense Friday — including a 54-yard blocked field goal return for a touchdown to go up two scores early — and Plymouth kept hold of the Hickory Stick traveling trophy with its first win of the season, a 28-20 victory on the road at Rochester.
“It feels a lot better tonight than it did a week ago,” said Plymouth football coach John Barron. “I think we got better in some areas. I still think that there are some things that we need to work on. But you want the kids to taste success and get a victory at the end of a hard week. We made just enough plays to win.”
“Hats off to Rochester,” he added. “They battled; they’re a good team, they really are. They’ve got some good players, they’re well-coached. They’re going to win some ballgames, and to come down here and get a win, I’m proud of our guys.”
Defense gave the Rockies a spark in the first quarter as a stripped ball and Rochester fumble recovery by the visitors with 7:55 remaining in the first quarter gave the Plymouth offense a short field to work with at the Rochester 38. The Rockies went on a six play scoring drive capped off by a Sam Stevens 28-yard run that put Plymouth up 7-0 with Jacob Frantz’s first of four PATs for the night.
Less than four minutes later, Ethan Sampson blocked a 54-yard field goal attempt by the Zebras, and Keyser McCrammer ran it back to give the Rockies a 14-0 advantage at the 1:21 stop of the first period.
“That ended up being the difference in the game, was the blocked field goal,” said Barron. “Ethan Sampson got the block, and Keyser’s athletic enough to scoop it up and get it to the end zone. That obviously is the play of the game, that big block.”
“Just a breakdown up front,” said Rochester head coach Mike Zehner. “The guy came in, and we didn’t step down. It was the left side. I’m not sure who we had in there. I’ll have to look at the film. But we didn’t step down like we should’ve, like we preach. And we didn’t react after that. We’ve got to realize that’s a live football, and we’ve got to go after that. That was a big play for them, big-time.”
Rochester answered back with an 11-play, 73-yard touchdown drive — highlighted by a 30-yard pass from quarterback Jonathan O’Dell to Peyton Showley and culminating in a 2-yd scoring touchdown scamper from Jacob Howdeshell — spanning from the end of the first quarter to the 7:48 mark of the second to cut Plymouth’s lead to 14-6 with the failed point-after kick.
But the Rockies again stretched their lead back to two scores with a 13-play, 81-yard drive of their own. The drive featured 62 rushing yards by Stevens, who capped it off with a seven-yard run into the end zone that gave Plymouth a 21-6 cushion with 1:52 remaining in the half.
Stevens finished with a game-high 129 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns putting in a gutsy performance on an ankle still slightly wobbly from an injury sustained in the Rockies’ scrimmage at Penn two weeks ago.
“When you have a seasoned guy like that you know he’s not going to put the ball on the ground,” said Barron. “We’re confident with him. Obviously we run our offense through him. Now we just have to have our other guys step up and play.”
Rochester made good use of the pass to stretch the clock before the break as the Zebras went on a quick eight-play, 60-yard scoring drive that featured 4-of-7 passing from O’Dell and a four-yard TD strike to Luke Cannedy with 22 seconds remaining in the half.
O’Dell went 11-for-22 for 196 yards with one touchdown and an interception, and backup quarterback John Hunting went 2-for-3 for 36 yards after O’Dell was sidelined with an injured ankle on a second straight roughing the passer foul with more than 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
The Rockies held the Zebra rushing game to just 40 net yards but surrendered 232 yards through the air after giving up 231 passing yards to Bremen in Week 1.
Plymouth scored its last touchdown when sophomore quarterback Kyle Lacefield picked up a fumbled snap on the Rochester 1 and dove into the end zone with 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Lacefield looked stronger in his second start after suspensions forced him to take over at signal caller on short notice before the Bremen game. He put up 22 rushing yards in 10 carries and went 6-of-11 with a pair of interceptions passing for the Rockies.
“I thought Kyle was pretty steady. We did give him more things,” Barron said. “We threw the ball a little bit more tonight because that’s what they were giving us. Overall it was a good performance. They did some things eventually that slowed us down, and we need to figure some things out up front, but we made the plays we had to to win.”
Rochester put up its final score of the night with a five-play, 64-yard drive capped off by Howdeshell’s second touchdown run of the night, a six-yarder with 11:18 on the game clock, but O’Dell was taken out of the game following two consecutive roughing the passer fouls by the Rockies as he attempted the two-point conversion pass, and Rochester never scored again.
“He rolled his ankle somehow. I’m not sure how,” said Zehner. “I’m going to have to look on the film to see, but he got it rolled it up pretty good.
“He couldn’t put pressure on it. I hope everything turns out… He’s a big part of our football team. Kicker, quarterback — you take him away right now, and that’s a lot.”
A failed fourth-down conversion by Plymouth gave Rochester one final chance with 1:43 remaining in the game and the ball on the Zebra 37, but a Michael Hartman sack left the home team in a fourth and long situation, the Rockies took over on downs with 41.8 seconds to play, and Plymouth took a knee twice to burn out the remaining time and seal the win.
Hartman had a stand-out game on defense with 6.5 tackles — a team co-high matched by Stevens — and two sacks.
“Michael just needs to continue to get better. He got lost a couple times with the ball in the air, but when we needed him he stepped up to play, so I’m glad to see that. He just needs to continue to get better,” Barron said.
The Rockies move to 1-1 on the year while Rochester slips to an 0-2 start. Plymouth opens Northern Lakes Conference play with a home game against Warsaw next Friday at 7:30 p.m.
At Rochester
Score by quarter
Plymouth: 14 7 7 0 — 28
Rochester: 0 12 0 8 — 20
Scoring summary
First quarter
P — Sam Stevens 28-yd run (Jacob Frantz kick) 5:09
P — Keyser McCrammer 54-yd blocked field goal return (Frantz kick) 1:21
Second quarter
R — Jacob Howdeshell 2-yd run (kick fail) 7:48
P — Sam Stevens 7-yd run (Frantz kick) 1:52
R — Luke Cannedy 4-yd pass from Jonathon O’Dell (Run fail) :22
Third quarter
P — Kyle Lacefield 1-yd run (Frantz kick) :28
Fourth quarter
R — Howdeshell 6-yd run (Cannedy pass) 11:18 Plymouth Rochester
First downs: 15 14
Rushing (att-yardage): 43-208 28-40
Passing (att-comp-int): 11-6-2 26-13-1
Passing yardage: 84 232
Fumbles-lost: 3-2 2-1
Penalties-yds lost: 9-57 4-27
Plymouth leader stats
Rushing: Stevens 23-129, 2TDs; Lacefield 10-22 Passing: Lacefield 11-6-2 for 84 yds
Receiving: Brady Ruffing 2-43, Stevens 2-34
Rochester leader stats
Rushing: Howdeshell 13-34, Screeton 6-20
Passing: O’Dell 22-11-1 for 232 yds, 1 TD; Hunting 3-2-0 for 36 yds
Receiving: Peyton Showley 6-133, Howdeshell 3-39, Ramsen Bet-Nimrod 2-38
Records: Plymouth 1-1, Rochester 0-2