NAPPANEE — It couldn’t have started any better, but it couldn’t have ended any worse for Plymouth’s Rockies as they finished their football season with a dramatic sectional loss in the final seconds at NorthWood, 17-13.
The Rockies took the opening kickoff and went on a five minute scoring drive capped by an Ike Kastner run, then recovered a NorthWood fumble on the ensuing kickoff, putting six more on the board two minutes later. Down 13 before its offense could even take the field, NorthWood did have an answering score sparked by a big Nathan Cleveland run late in the first quarter.
Then the rains came.
Monsoon conditions for the rest of the night slowed both offenses down to trench warfare. Battling a slick football and poor footing, neither team could mount an advantage on the opposing defense.
For two and a half quarters the teams slugged it out until the Rockies began to gain some offensive momentum on a drive that appeared to end with a 30-yard touchdown run by Kastner. But when the mud had cleared a late penalty flag thrown behind the original line of scrimmage brought the ball back and took the points off the board.
Penalties would be the killer for Plymouth on the night. The Rockies had eight for 121 yards.
“We let them hang around. They made the plays when they had to make the plays but we had a part in it tonight on both sides of the ball,” said Plymouth coach John Barron. “There were an awful lot of penalties tonight. They were very uncharacteristic. There were a lot of calls that really stalled our offense tonight.”
“This field is a great equalizer; we know that,” said NorthWood coach Scott Hoover. “It’s about field position and hanging on to the football, and our kids played smart and that helped us.”
Momentum shifted to the Panthers, who made key plays on a drive that saw Nick Graber catch a 30-yard touchdown pass from Will Kirkwood to put the Panthers within two. NorthWood decided to roll the dice and go for two, but Plymouth gained a little momentum back making a stop on Blake Cleveland’s run.
Still with the lead Plymouth had a pair of big plays after the kick but a Kastner fumble gave the ball back to the Panthers, who ate up the rest of the clock driving to the Plymouth three. The Rockies defense made a valiant stand but couldn’t stop the kick of Brendan Widner from 17 that put the Panthers ahead for good with just :43 to play.
“We thought we had the quarterback sneak there on the third down, the rain stopped, and we had a dry spot on the field. We thought we’d give him (Widner) a shot,” said Hoover of the decision to kick the field goal with fourth and goal inside the 1. “We had five plays inside the 3-yard line and couldn’t punch them in. We thought we’d given our offense enough tries and we’d try the field goal.”
“The longer they hung around the more confidence they had,” said Barron. “The field conditions were the same for them. Their kids just made plays.”
With Plymouth inside their five on the ensuing possession and forced to throw, NorthWood was able to tack on a safety for the final score.
Plymouth ends the season at 7-3. NorthWood (5-5) moves to round two next week at Wawasee.
• NORTHW00D 17,
Score by Quarters
Plymouth 13 0 0 0 - 13
Northwood 6 0 0 11 - 17
06:09 PLYM - Ike Kastner 3 yd run (Jacob Frantz kick), PLYM 7 - NWOOD 0
04:53 PLYM - Justin Drudge 14 yd run (Frantz kick failed), PLYM 13 - NWOOD 0
02:19 NWOOD - Nathan Cleveland 2 yd run (Brendan Widner kick blocked) PLYM 13 - NWOOD 6
04:57 NWOOD - Nick Graber 30 yd pass from Will Kirkwood (Cleveland rush failed) PLYM 13 - NWOOD 12
00:39 NWOOD - Brendan Widner 17 yd field goal PLYM 13 - NWOOD 15
00:08 NWOOD - Justice Smith safety PLYM 13 - NWOOD 17
RUSHING: (Plymouth 48-221) Ike Kastner 23-99, TD; Justin Drudge 8-67 TD; Sam Stevens 12-61; Elliott Eads 3-6; Jack Barron 1-minus 4; Trent Briles 1-minus 8. (Northwood 36-151) Blake Cleveland 11-68; Nathan Cleveland 14-63 TD; Luke Edwards 2-12; Will Kirkwood 9-8.
PASSING: Plymouth-Jack Barron 0-1-0-0; Trent Briles 1-1-0-20. Northwood-Kirkwood 5-11-0-61 TD.
RECEIVING: Plymouth-Dakota Brooke 1-20. Northwood-Graber 4-53; Trent Sauceda 1-8.
INTERCEPTIONS: Plymouth-None. Northwood-None.
FUMBLES: Plymouth-I. Kastner 2-2; J. Drudge 1-1. Northwood-Cleveland 1-1; Ben Rethlake 1-1; Kirkwood 1-0.
SACKS: Plymouth-None. Northwood-Smith 1.
TACKLES: Plymouth-Michael Garrity 10; Ethan Sampson 9; Deandre Pickford 8. Northwood-Justic Smith 10; Dylan Risser 11; Albert Gongwer 7.