PLYMOUTH — The young Rockies did some growing up Friday night.
After failing to convert on a pair of fourth-down conversions from the Rochester 2-yard line in the game’s opening 13 minutes and giving up a pair of big play touchdowns in the second and third frames, Plymouth found itself down 13-0 early in the second half.
But the Rockies finished five of their next six drives and surrendered just one more Rochester score to claim a 34-20 come-from-behind win over the visiting Zebras at The Rockpile.
“A win is better than a loss. These guys know that, and I’m proud of them,” said Plymouth head football coach John Barron. “This is a nice win for us. We were down at halftime, and they could have gone the other direction but they didn’t. They hung together and they trusted each other, and they came through with a nice win for us.”
“Our offense really came together,” said Plymouth quarterback Ike Kastner. “The credit goes to those linemen. They came together, they trusted me, I trust every single person in that huddle, and things came together for us.
“This victory feels awesome.”
Kastner led Plymouth’s newly-installed triple option offense with an impressive 212 rushing yards in 37 carries en route to three touchdowns, including a 41-yarder that broke a 20-20 tie and gave the Rockies their final lead of the night at the 6:40 mark of the final frame. The junior signal caller also did an admirable job reading the Rochester defense, dishing off to junior fullback Sam Stevens for 176 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries and senior running back Chase Peters for 45 yards on seven rushes while passing for 49 yards at a 4-for-10 connection rate.
Plymouth’s revamped running game Friday was a welcome change from the 95 ground yards it put up in its season-opening loss at Bremen last week, and it featured some gutsy performances from Kastner and Stevens, both of whom were playing through injuries against the Zebras.
“Ike had 212, and Stevens had 176. Both of them were injured and went through most of the week without getting hit,” said Barron. It shows their toughness, and those are the kind of statistics you want to see when you run this kind of offense — your quarterback and fullback running the ball the way that they did. We got some nice key blocks out of Cole (Mann) and Chase ran the ball hard on the perimeter.”
“The offensive line picked it up, too,” added the Rockies skipper. “It was just a total team effort.”
Plymouth had chances to go up early on its first and second possessions of the night, but Rochester’s defense held at its own 2-yard line both times.
The Zebras took a 7-0 advantage on a 76-yard breakaway by senior running back Zac Schultz — who finished with 103 yards on 12 carries to pace Rochester’s rushing game — and the ensuing extra-point kick by quarterback/kicker Jonathon O’Dell at the 8:39 stop of the second quarter.
Although they led in nearly all statistical categories, the Rockies found themselves trailing 7-0 going into the locker room. They went down another six on a 24-yard pass from O’Dell — who connected with his receivers at an 8-for-24 rate for 129 yards and two touchdowns — to Collyn Bennett just 53 seconds into the second half, but Plymouth’s young squad never lost hope.
“We really didn’t talk much at halftime,” said Barron. “We were just calm and we told our guys the statistics. We told them we were dominating them on paper, but we weren’t on the scoreboard. We had our chances. We were second and goal on the 2 and we didn’t score. We were inside the 10 again and we didn’t score. We just left it up to the players to figure it out themselves, and I think they did. I think they started believing in each other, and the offense really started clicking in the second half.”
Plymouth tied up the game with touchdowns on its next two possessions as Kastner executed a 3-yard plunge up the middle to cap off a nine-play, 52-yard drive at the 7:36 mark of the third quarter, the Rockies defense held Rochester to three-and-out, and Stevens completed an 18-yard run into the end zone with 46 seconds left in the frame following a 12-yard drive that started all the way back on the Plymouth 7-yard line. The PAT run on the first score failed, but Jordan Knapp’s kick on the second was good to knot the game at 13-all.
Stevens opened the fourth quarter fireworks with a 71-yard touchdown ramble on the Rockies’ first play of the quarter that put the home team up 20-13 with Knapp’s point-after kick, but Rochester retied the score just over a minute later as O’Dell hit Peyton Showley up the Rochester sideline with a 48-yard catch-and-carry at the 9:35 mark, and the point-after kick from O’Dell was good.
Plymouth took its final lead of the night on a 41-yard touchdown ramble from Kastner that completed a quick seven-play, 80-yard march and gave the Rockies a 27-20 advantage with Knapp’s kick with 6:40 to go. Rochester’s fourth-down conversion pass failed on the ensuing possession, Plymouth took over at the Rochester 28, and the Rockies put up some insurance points with another Kastner keeper with 3:54 on the game clock, this time from 14 yards out, that brought the score to its final margin.
While Rochester slides to 0-1, Plymouth improves to 1-1 with Friday’s feel-good win. The Rockies will open Northern Lakes Conference play next week at Warsaw. Opening kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EDT.
• PLYMOUTH 34,
Score by quarters
Rochester: 0 7 6 7 — 20
Plymouth: 0 0 13 21 — 34
R — Zac Shultz 76-yd run (Jonathon O’Dell kick), 8:39
R — Collyn Bennett 25-yd pass from O’Dell (kick fail), 11:07
P — Ike Kastner 3-yd run (Run fail), 7:36
P — Sam Stevens 18-yd run (Jordan Knapp kick), 0:46
P — Stevens 71-yd run (Knapp kick), 10:56
R — Peyton Showley 48-yd pass from O’Dell (O’Dell kick), 9:35
P — Kastner 41-yd run (Knapp kick), 6:40
P — Kastner 14-yd run (Knapp kick), 3:54
Rushing: 67-444; Kastner 37-212, Stevens 22-176, Chase Peters 7-45
Passing: Kastner 4-10-0 for 49 yds
Receiving: David Lee 3-29, Peters 1-20
First downs: 24
Rushing: 19-143; Shultz 12-103, Chad Scobie 1-17, O’Dell 3-13, Cameron Screeton 3-10
Passing: O’Dell 8-24-0 for 129
Receiving: Showley 3-50, Zac Schoen 2-27, Bennett 1-25
First downs: 9
Records: Plymouth 1-1, Rochester 0-2.