Twice as nice for Lions

PLYMOUTH — It had taken 15 meetings for Bremen to finally break its losing streak against Plymouth last season.
On Friday, a young and largely untested Lions lineup backed it up with its second straight victory over the Rockies, handing their hosts a 42-26 Senior Nigh Spoiler at The Rockpile in the two teams’ season-opener.
With 18 seniors gone from last year’s regional championship squad, Class 2A No. 6 Bremen had questions prior to the start of the 2012 season, but the Lions’ reloaded lineup had the answer at Plymouth, jumping out to a 14-0 lead with two minutes remaining in the first quarter and responding time and again as a resilient Rockies team closed the gap, stretching its lead to 21-6 at the break.
Plymouth battled back with a pair of scores in the third quarter to cut its deficit to 28-20, but two touchdown receptions by 6’4” senior wide receiver Ethan Pike late in the third and early in the fourth quarter proved to be the backbreakers as the Lions extended their regular-season win streak to 14 games.
“We’ve heard it’s been about 25 years back since the last time in ‘87-88 or ‘89, I’m not sure,” said Bremen head football coach Bob Holmes of his team’s second consecutive win over Plymouth. “To beat them for the second time in a row for the first time in 25 years, what an accomplishment.
“I thought the kids did an extremely good job for the first game. You have to play basically assignment football our first day out of the box with all but two new starters on defense. Other than having no answer for (Sam) Stevens, I thought we did a good job with everything else.”
“I’m not worried about the past, what people have done before. They’re a very good football team, and they’re very well coached,” said Plymouth head coach John Barron.
The Rockies struggled with turnovers, giving up five total on the night — including two turnovers off six fumbles — and the opportunistic Lions made them pay. Indeed, both teams turned over numerous times shaking off the rust in their season-opener as Bremen coughed up two fumbles and surrendered two interceptions, but Plymouth converted just one of those extra possessions into points.
A Plymouth fumble at the 8:51 mark of the first quarter and Dillon Mullen recovery set the Lions up for a first-and-goal at the Plymouth 22-yard line, and Bremen went up 7-0 with under two minutes left in the frame on a quick five-play scoring drive capped off by a Reid Zellmer 5-yard touchdown scamper and the first of Lucas Schlarb’s six successful extra-point kicks of the night.
With just over a minute remaining in the first half, Plymouth sophomore quarterback Kyle Lacefield smothered a bad snap from the Rockies’ 25 on fourth down to give the Lions an extra scoring opportunity from the Plymouth 5. Bremen junior QB Kai Slough hooked up with Bobby Cornett for his second of four touchdown strikes less than five seconds later to give Bremen a 21-6 halftime advantage.
“We had some kids that made some young mistakes, and their wide outs are pretty good and their quarterback’s pretty good,” said Barron. “Bob’s got a good team, and they’re young so they’ll be good again next year.”
Following Zellmer’s second TD run of the night at the 9:56 stop of the third quarter, this time from 15 yards out, Plymouth capitalized on a 70-yard kickoff return by Brady Ruffing to the Bremen 15, and Kyser McCrammer ran it in from seven yards out to cut Bremen’s lead to 28-12 with 8:21 on the clock.
McCrammer followed up with a big interception and 15-yard interception return on Bremen’s next possession to set up a five play, 25-yard scoring drive capped off by Sam Stevens’ second of three rushing touchdowns from six yards out with 5:25 to go in the third. Lacefield ran it in for the two-point conversion — Plymouth’s first and only extra points of the night — to give the Rockies new life at 28-20, but Bremen answered back with a 73-yard scoring drive culminating in Pike’s second TD reception of the evening with 3:04 left in the quarter.
Slough hooked up with Pike again with 5:46 on the game clock to put the game out of reach at 42-20, making Stevens’ final score of the night with 32 ticks on the clock academic.
All total, Slough finished with 231 passing yards on 9-of-18 accuracy with a pair of interceptions and four touchdown passes in his first varsity start. Pike accounted for three of those touchdowns and 136 receiving yards, not too shabby for a senior who played his first year of high school football last season.
“Last year was his first year, but he’s a tremendous athlete” said Holmes. “He does a great job. He was one of our go-to guys last year, and he’s definitely going to be one of our go-to guys this year.”
“Kai Slough has an outstanding night,” he continued. “He hasn’t played football in two years, runs our offense and does an outstanding job.”
Zellmer led Bremen’s rushing game with a yeoman-like 138 yards on 19 carries and two rushing touchdowns.
Plymouth was led offensively by Stevens’ prolific 251 rushing yards — more than his team’s total net rushing yards for the night — and scored three touchdowns, including a rambling 81-yarder in the first quarter that cut Bremen’s lead to 14-6 at the quarter break.
“I’m very proud of him,” Barron said. “He’s not 100 percent at all. He took a really bad sprain against Penn in the scrimmage, and for him to do what he did and play defense as well, I was proud of him.”
While Bremen was opportunistic and used its big play passing game to good effect, the Rockies were handicapped from the outset as several players were suspended in the days leading up to the game, forcing some last-minute lineup changes, including sophomore Lacefield’s debut at quarterback with little time to prepare.
“I was proud of Kyle. I thought he did an outstanding job. He basically just had one night of practice and was trying to get a whole lot of things in. We had to make a decision, you know, revamp our offense or stick with what we’re doing and give him as much as we can, and I thought he did an admirable job. I think our guys really played hard, and the guys that were on the field, I’m proud of them.”
Plymouth will look to bounce back next week at Rochester. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Bremen travels to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis next Saturday, meanwhile, as the Lions face off against Tippecanoe Valley in an Indianapolis Colts’ Horseshoe Hall of Fame Classic match-up at 2:30 p.m.
At Plymouth
Score by quarter
Bremen: 14 7 14 7 — 42
Plymouth: 6 0 14 6 — 26
Scoring summary
First quarter
B — Reid Zellmer 5-yd run (Lucas Schlarb kick), 7:05
B — Ethan Pike 52-yd pass from Kai Slough (Schlarb kick), 2:00
P — Sam Stevens 81-yd run (kick fail) 1:43
Second quarter
B — Bobby Cornett 5-yd pass from Slough (Schlarb kick), 0:56
Third quarter
B — Zellmer 16-yd run (Schlarb kick), 9:56
P — Keyser McCrammer 7-yd run (pass fail), 8:21
P — Stevens 6-yd run (Kyle Lacefield rush), 5:25
B — Pike 19-yd pass from Slough (Schlarb kick), 3:04
Fourth quarter
B — Pike 11-yd pass from Slough (Schlarb kick), 5:46
P — Stevens 2-yd run (rush fail), 0:32

Plymouth Bremen
First downs: 15 16
Rushing (att-yardage): 49-226 33-155
Passing (att-comp-int): 6-3-2 18-9-2
Passing yardage: 42 231
Fumbles-lost: 6-2 2-2
Penalties-yds lost: 2-27 4-37
Plymouth leader stats
Rushing: Stevens 26-251, 2 TD
Passing: Lacefield 6-3-2 for 42 yds
Receiving: Brady Ruffing 1-24, Michael Garrity 1-18
Bremen leader stats
Rushing: Zellmer 19-138, 2 TD, Eric Knepper 11-27
Passing: Slough 18-9-2 for 231 yds, 4 TDS
Receiving: Pike 4-136, 3 TDS; Zellmer 2-72, Cornett 2-17, 1 TD
Records: Bremen 1-0, Plymouth 0-1