PLYMOUTH — The 2007 State Champion Plymouth Pilgrims — voted the Pilot News’ “Best of the Decade in High School Sports” — were a team on a mission.
With several members of the 2005 state runner-up squad still on the team, there was a unique sense of destiny in the locker room. They seemed to know it was going to happen.
“I’m pretty sure the seniors thought we’d do it all year long,” said Jason Renz, a senior on the 2007 team. “Chad (Clinton), Randy (Davis) and I were all on the 2005 team that lost on the half court shot by Luke Zellers. We felt like we were good enough to do it.”
“I remember after we lost on that shot my freshman year Chad pulled me and Jason together right there on the court,” said Davis. “He said ‘I promise we’ll be back.’ It meant a lot that he said that right there and then. He was the leader of our team and I believed him.”
“I think he’s (Renz) absolutely right,” added Clinton. “It wasn’t really anything anybody was cocky about or went around talking about but there was that confidence and belief in each other. I think it all started in the summer of that year.”
“When we played in the summer we’d be warming up and the other team would be laughing at us,” said Renz. “We didn’t have anybody who could dunk, or do any of those kind of things. They’d think they were going to kill us and then the game would start and we’d end up killing them.”
Coach Jack Edison knew his team was special, but the veteran also knew the ups and downs of the IHSAA tournament.
“I definitely thought this team could have some success,” said Edison. “There are just so many question marks when you get into the tournament and you look at the size and the talent of some of the teams you have to beat you know it’s going to be an uphill battle. Of course when you have guys that are that focused and competitive you feel like you can take them (your opponent) out of some things and you can have a chance to achieve some things.”
“He never wanted us to take any opponent lightly,” said Clinton. “He never wanted us to get too high or too low.”
The trademark of the team was defense. A blowout was a different kind of affair for the 2007 Pilgrims. It didn’t so much involve their offensive outburst, but a resolve to keep the other team from scoring at all — sometimes for a quarter or more.
“If you’d ask anybody on that team our main attribute they’d say defense,” said Renz. “A lot of times people will ask us who would win if the ‘05 team played the ‘07 team. In ‘05 we had some pretty good offense but in ‘07 our defense was a step above anything.”
“I don’t think we were all that talented offensively,” said Clinton. “We were just so together defensively and we knew we needed to score points off of our defense which gave us a little more incentive to be good at it.”
“No matter how many times somebody sees that defense it gives them trouble,” said Davis. “They can see it five times, ten times it’s still going to give them trouble.”
“When you have guys like Chad or Randy out at that point that can equalize or even negate that other team’s point guard it’s a lot like a football team putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback,” said Edison. “That really gets you off to a good start. We had some good one on one defenders on that team but they really got the team concept – anticipating and working together because they were so focused.”
The lessons learned on the court have made their impression on the members of that team as well.
“We still talk, we still text each other and hang out all the time,” said Davis. “That’s something that’s going to be for a lifetime. That team was so close and that has a lot to do with why we did what we did.”
“I think it proves what a group of guys could do as a team,” said Renz. “What you can do together can trump anything that anybody does as an individual.”
“There’s a lot to be said for the power of a group of people working together and all on the same page,” said Clinton. “You can apply that in life. When I start my own business I want to run it the same way that we ran that team.”