Some old match-ups, some new at sectional semifinals
Plymouth and Culver will both get a second chance at some familiar foes, while John Glenn hits the road for an unknown opponent as sectional semifinals take place Friday.
The Rockies (4-6) haven’t had to wait long since last seeing Northern Lakes Conference-rival NorthWood (7-3).
Two weeks ago in the last week of regular-season play, Plymouth was right in the contest until a fourth-quarter interception and touchdown by the Panthers sealed a 21-8 loss for the visitors. After last week’s 49-21 romp on the road at Angola, the rejuvenated Rockies are eager to show their stuff at home in this week’s Sectional 11 semifinal at 7 p.m.
“We’re playing at home, and our kids are playing with a lot of confidence. It’s not a revenge thing, it’s just a familiarity thing,” said Plymouth Head Football Coach John Barron.
“I think it’s a confidence thing with our kids. We played well against them last time, and we kind of know what they’re all about. They do some good things. They have a very sound defense; they run to the ball well, they tackle well. They’re coached well. I think because we’ve played them before there’s a familiarity, and I always think it’s hard to beat a team twice just because we’ve been through that before. If anything, it gives us confidence that we’ve played them before.”
Plymouth unveiled its new offense — reverting back to some more traditional power football in lieu of the triple option —in Week 9 at NorthWood, and the Rockies’ O has been clicking since then. Defense has been possibly an even stronger suit as Plymouth created eight turnovers on the road last week at Angola, parlaying those picks into seven touchdowns en route to the sectional-opening win.
“We created eight turnovers last week against a good Angola team on the road, so there’s a lot of momentum right there,” said Barron. “I think our defense the last two weeks has played very well. They’re playing fast and they’re playing with a lot of confidence. We feel like we can pressure when we need to pressure, play zone when we need to play zone, play man when we need to play man. A lot of it has to do with our front four; our tackles and ends have played a lot better, and I think our linebackers have certainly stepped up their game too. Our run defense is very much improved. And I think the style of offense we’re running right now kind of fits our personality with our staff and our kids.”
Meanwhile, Culver (6-4) has waited nine weeks for another shot at West Central (6-4).
The Cavaliers were stopped 7 yards short of the game-winning score in that season-opening, 26-21 defeat, and they’re excited for the chance to show how much they’ve grown since then as they host the host the Trojans in Class A, Sectional 33 play at 7:30 p.m.
“To go out and show what kind of a football team we’ve become,” said Culver coach Andy Thomas. “We’ve gotten better all year, and it’s kind of cool to be able to go out and get a true gauge of how far we’ve come and how much we’ve improved. I’m sure they have also, but it’ll just be fun to see how we match up and how things go the second time around.”
The two teams are not only familiar with each other from their season-opener back in August, but with similar offensive and defensive schemes, there isn’t too much that should surprise Friday.
“As far as match-ups, its two evenly-matched teams,” said Thomas. “They’re an option team just like us. They run the same plays that we do. They’re running some trap and some wing counter that they’ve added over the course of the season. Defensively, they’re a 4-3, cover-2 team.
“We’ve got to get some stops. We need to play consistent on both sides of the ball, and we’ve got to be able to get off the field against them. They’re a well-oiled machine on offense, and we’ve got to do our jobs, carry out our assignments and play within our offense and defense and not try to do too much.”
While the Cavs and the Trojans know each other well, John Glenn (8-2) hits the road for an unfamiliar opponent in Class 3A No. 5 Mishawaka Marian at 7 p.m.
Falcons head coach Justin Bogunia is looking on that fact as a positive, however, and he’s hoping the Northern Indiana Conference Knights are overconfident in the match-up with Northern State Conference Glenn.
“Somebody pointed out to me earlier in the week that we had met Marian three or four times in the history of the school with us on top like 2-1 or 3-1 or something like that,” said Bogunia. “I would have never guessed that. I don’t know how long that’s been. Altogether this is my 16th year in the school system, and we haven’t played Marian since I’ve been here.”
“We’re not very familiar with each other, and I hope with that being said that they underestimate us a little bit,” he continued. “There’s so much put up to schedules and playing big schools, and obviously we get it all the time because the Northern State Conference isn’t per se such a big-school conference like the NIC or the NLC. This is the first NIC school that our conference has played this year, so I’m sure that they’ll say ‘Yeah, John Glenn’s done all this, but —”. I hope that’s part of it Friday night. I hope they do underestimate us, and our guys do show them.”
One key to the Class 3A Sectional 17 match-up will be the Falcons’ ability to get off to a good start on the road. At last year’s sectional championship at Andrean, Glenn got off to a poor start that snowballed into an eventual 56-14 season-ending defeat.
“Obviously you’re more comfortable when you’re at home; you’re in your routine,” Bogunia said. “Getting off to a good start is key. Last year we travelled so far and went on the road to Andrean and got off to a bad start and then it just kind of compounded on us. I think that is kind of key this week and in the playoffs in particular, it is important if you’re the road team to get off to a good start because it seems like it can compound on you so quickly in a playoff game.”
Also in Sectional 17 play this week, Culver Military Academy (5-5) hosts another NIC ranked team in No. 4 South Bend St. Joseph’s (8-2) at 7 p.m., while 2A No. 4-rated Bremen (10-0) looks to extend its unbeaten streak against Manchester (3-7) in a Sectional 26 semifinal at home at 7 p.m.