PLYMOUTH — A week ago Plymouth’s Rockies were riding the wave of an almost unstoppable offense and a rejuvenated defense.
In the rain at Goshen, injuries became an issue for the offense. On almost successive plays senior playmakers Sam Stevens and Ike Kastner went down with shoulder injuries. Shortly thereafter offensive tackle Adam Lacefield left with an ankle injury. While there was never much doubt that Stevens and Lacefield would return this week, Kastner’s situation was a little more complicated.
“As of today (Wednesday) we are preparing as if he is going to play,” said Plymouth head coach John Barron of his senior quarterback. “The injury wasn’t as bad as we were afraid it was, and he’s gotten better every day.”
Kastner’s injury is just one issue clouding the preparation for Friday’s contest. The Rockies are still in the hunt for the Northern Lakes Conference title tied with both Concord and Warsaw — who play each other on Friday — at 5-1 in conference play. Traditional rival NorthWood (4-4) stands in the way of Plymouth gaining a share of that title and will also be the Rockies’ sectional opponent next Friday.
“We’re still in the hunt for a conference championship, and that’s one of our goals that’s important to us,” said Barron. “We’re not thinking about next week. We’re not hiding anything, we’re not resting anybody. We’ll worry about next week later. We’re attacking this like any other Friday. It is an odd situation and one we’ve never had to prepare for, but we’ll worry about next week later.”
It’s also a rivalry game on Friday, one that the Rockies (6-2) have had a tough time with.
“It’s been a rivalry because they have been awfully good over the years,” said Barron. “It goes back to Jim Andrews and Rich Dodson — both Hall of Fame coaches — since I’ve been here they’ve been the team to beat. A lot of it has to do with the fact that everybody wants to be playing well going into the playoffs. Whoever your week nine opponent is you want to be playing well going into week 10.
“They beat us twice last year. They ended our season. We’ve been trying to make our kids aware of that.”
NorthWood coach Scott Hoover enters his third year at the helm, but not much has changed in the Panthers ‘approach to the game.
“They are back to playing power football and doing a lot of the things NorthWood has traditionally done well,” said Barron. “They want to run the ball, they’ll run power, iso, a little bit of option. The Cleveland brothers are really tough football players. The fullback is the best blocking fullback we’ve seen, he really gets after it when he comes through there. His little brother has started every game as a freshman, and here we are in week nine. We’re just going to have to stop their running game.”
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