Battle of “tough guys” will have major NLC implications

PLYMOUTH — It’s rivalry week.
The first of several really — at least for Plymouth’s Rockies as they travel to Concord for what has become one of the most heated confrontations of the Northern Lakes Conference season. There is no love lost between these two teams on the field and while Plymouth comes into the game with three straight impressive wins, Concord had its perfect season upset with a stunning loss to Jimtown last week 48-0.
“I’m pretty sure they’ve had some spirited practices this week,” said Plymouth head coach John Barron of the Minutemen. “Every year since 2004 either Plymouth or Concord has been conference champion, and I think that has made it a classic game. Simply put, this is the best team that we’ve played this year.
“I remember that (retired Jimtown head coach) Bill Sharpe used to say he’d point to the best team on his schedule for the upcoming year and spend the summer and pre-season working to beat them because if you could beat the best you had a good chance against the rest of your schedule. They have two Division I players at running back and tight end and I don’t care what happened last week — Concord kids will play hard against Plymouth.”
The Rockies come into the game having found some answers after early season troubles. Along with a defense that has come alive the past three weeks, the Rockies offense has seemed unstoppable, and much of the credit belongs to the players up front.
“Our offensive line has jelled, and our kids really have a passion for doing well,” said Barron. “You look at Matt Hiatt walking down the hallway and you’d never guess he’s the starting center on your football team, but he’s a really tough kid and he got (strength and conditioning coach Curt) Coach Samuelson’s attention by the way he is in the weight room.
“Dan Samuelson is headed for Nebraska, but he is the most coachable kid on our team. He knows he needs to learn and get better, and he works hard at that. Adam Lacefield is probably our most athletic lineman. He’s tall and smart and he could switch over and play defensive end just as easily. Heath Wolf has an unbelievable passion for the game, and Tucker Pletcher has impressed us since his JV days. They’re all tough guys, and they don’t really care what happens as long as we move the football and win games.”
Concord will show up with “tough guys” of their own, hoping to use their athleticism to their advantage.
“It’s really a classic game because it’s two totally opposite approaches to offense,” said Barron. “They are going to stretch the field and throw the ball. We’re going to run the ball and try to keep their offense off the field as much as possible. They are huge — their quarterback is 230 pounds and their running back is 240 and ran all over us since he was a sophomore. They are probably going to do all they can to stop Sam (Stevens) and that makes Ike’s (Kastner) play all that more important in making the right read on the option.
“I think the first quarter is critical. Our first few possessions are critical, and I really hope we don’t get into a shootout. It’s going to be a matter of execution.”