PLYMOUTH — Following last week’s historic loss to Bremen, the Rockies are taking some history lessons this week.
The defending Class 2A Sectional 26-champion Lions handed Class 4A Plymouth a 21-8 defeat in last Friday’s opener, the first such win for the Lions since 1988, and the experience left a sour taste in the Rockies’ mouths. The team is stressing tradition this Friday as it plays host to another longstanding nonconference rival in Rochester, and the stakes are a fourth-straight Hickory Stick traveling trophy.
“First and foremost, you can’t feel sorry for yourself,” said Plymouth head coach John Barron. “The second thing is, I’m a firm believer that losing can become a habit, and that’s not my job as the head football coach at Plymouth. We work to win, we work out to win, we lift to win, and we practice to win, so winning is important. Sometimes it’s harder to get done with some of the people that we play, but I think right now the ball is in the court of our older kids, and it’s their responsibility to get us back where we belong. And that’s to play well, but not only to play well but to win.
“These two nonconference opponents that we play are against teams that Plymouth High School has a long history with. We’re playing for the Hickory Stick — that’s the only traveling trophy that we play any team for — and there’s a lot of tradition; it goes back to the 1950s. It would be a great win for Rochester, it would turn their season around if they could come here to The Rockpile and get a win. So we need to understand that, that they’re a very good opponent, and they’ll be well-prepared for us.”
Along with the Hickory Stick, the prize Friday would be some confidence and positive momentum headed into Week 3’s conference openers. Both Plymouth and Rochester are looking to break into the win column following the Zebras’ 54-27 loss to Eastbrook last week.
“Rochester is a team that gave up over 500 yards of offense (against Eastbrook),” said Barron. “Mark Miller will probably be in the Hall of Fame someday, and he’s not going to allow that two weeks in a row. Even though they did get beat, they got beat by a really, really good football team.”
The Rockies are also hoping the home field advantage will give their young lineup a boost, and Barron is emphasizing not only Plymouth’s broader winning tradition, but the tradition of defending its home turf as well.
“It’s huge when you have an inexperienced club like we do,” he said. “There are a lot of festivities being planned for the game, and if the weather cooperates we’ll have a very good crowd there for our guys. Hopefully, they understand that playing at The Rockpile and doing well at The Rockpile is important. It’s important for a lot of reasons. Our guys just need to realize they’re not only playing for themselves, they’re playing for a lot of people. It’s important that they realize the history of our program and the success we’ve had in the past; that it’s their responsibility to carry on that tradition.”
While Plymouth tries to right the ship, Bremen looks to carry over the success it had last week. The Lions are hoping to build on that historic win with an even rarer one as they travel to Tippecanoe Valley in search of their first-ever win on Vikings’ turf.
“It’s been over 22 years since we’ve been 1-0, so we’re pretty excited,” said second-year head coach Bob Holmes. “This time has worked very hard. They worked hard in the offseason, worked hard in the summer, and I think it showed Friday night. They overcame some adversity with the five turnovers we had against a quality football team in the Rockies.
“We’ve never beaten them at Tippy Valley, so that poses a huge problem for us. We need to make sure we’re focused, go down there and compete to win against a very good football team.”
While the Lions definitely can’t argue with last week’s result, they still feel they need to make some improvements on Friday, namely, turnovers, special teams play and penalties.
“Everyone is still rusty in Week 1 — and I think it showed with the amount of turnovers that we had and the mistakes that we made — but these guys are experienced, the system is the same, and I think this season more than anything is going to allow us to get a little bit more of our system in and get a little bit more versatility,” Holmes said.
“The good news is it is Week 1, and most coaches will tell you they see their biggest jumps and most improvement between Week 1 and Week 2. You get some time to get used to the weekly repetitiveness and getting consistency week in and week out. Hopefully our kids will gain some perspective from last week and put our best foot forward and get better.”
Another team looking to build on a win last Friday is John Glenn.
The Falcons handed North Judson a devastating 41-6 defeat on the road, a score that’s even more impressive when you consider the team put up all those points in the first half and played much of the second half with its JV squad.
Star back Josh Anderson averaged nearly 18 yards a touch for 212 total rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns en route to six scores at the game.
“Obviously Josh had an incredible night,” said Glenn head coach Justin Bogunia. “Twelve carries for 212 yards is almost unbelievable and then he had six touchdowns… It was definitely a great night for him. He only rushed the ball once in the third quarter, and that was it, so he got all of those yards and all of those plays at the beginning. He picked up where he left off last year, and he did it Friday in less carries.”
While other teams start conference play in Week 3, Glenn will open its Northern State Conference schedule this week as it hosts Jimtown in a game with possible ramifications for the NSC crown given the Jimmies’ historic dominance of the conference. The Falcons feel they can use a size advantage up front and look to imitate the kind of aggressive play on the line that gave NorthWood a 28-2 victory over Jimtown last week.
“It’s almost a high-stakes conference game in the second week of the season. I know both teams are well-prepared for this game and not taking anything for granted,” said Bogunia.
“We talk a lot about that, up front. I think probably for the first time ever we’ll be bigger than Jimtown, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage this week… The thing that impressed me the most (about NorthWood) was how aggressive they were and how they really took it to Jimtown. They’re big and they were physical, and they were attacking the whole time. That’s what I would like to see from our guys this week.”
In other area action Friday, LaVille (0-1) looks for its first win as it hits the road for unfamiliar Bowman Academy (1-0) after the Lancers moved up to Class 2A and the Eagles’ Sectional 26 field in the offseason. Triton will also look for a first win as it plays host to Northfield (1-0), as does Culver (0-1) when it hits the road for South Central Union Mills (1-0), while Culver Military (1-0) heads to NorthWood (1-0) in a battle of the unbeatens.