NAPPANEE — It was a disappointing end to Plymouth's season with road loss at NorthWood's Jim Andrews Field by a final of 40-20.
The loss puts a tie atop the NLC final standings as Concord was a winner at Warsaw. Both Plymouth and the Minutemen finishing with 6-1 record.
The tone of the game was set in the opening exchange when NorthWood took the opening kickoff and marched down the field on a masterful first drive for a score.
Plymouth's first possession came to a screeching halt before it even started when the Rockies Seth Rundell was run off the field by the officials for an "equipment adjustment" forcing a time out. It was just enough disruption to get the Plymouth offense out of sync at a crucial moment.
"We looked like a team that had a week off, You get teenagers out of their routine and this is what happens," said Plymouth head coach John Barron. "We tried to keep them focused. We brought them in to lift this week, got them up early, had a curfew. It's just tough to have that week off."
Plymouth responded to the pressure by regrouping and finding a way to handle the Panther running game.
Meanwhile the offense found a way to respond to the relentless pressure of the NorthWood defense, but couldn't get enough to punch the ball in for a score.
Adrian Cardona was the only offense in the early going hitting a 25 yard field goal, a 35 yard shot and barely missing a 40 yard shot.
"Defensively we're still trying to find the right combinations in there," said Barron. "They were trading their tight ends and we started trading (Nick) Craft with him and we had some success there."
"We looked like a team that was out of sync," said Barron. "You're seeing the results of a team that was totally thrown off our routine."
"We had kids that really played hard," he said. "I can't fault our effort. You saw the effort of a group of kids that have been off a week."
Both teams spent the better part of three quarters trying to deliver some sort of momentum building punch that neither could land.
The Panthers landed one in the third quarter with a 36 yard pass — only the fourth of the night — that would put them up 21-6.
Just two minutes later they would strike again with a 55 yard run by Nate Newcomer that would turn the tide and the game towards NorthWood with a three score lead.
The Rockies climbed right back into the game first with a 25 yard pass from Joe Barron to Seth Rundell.
Jake Reichard then grabbed a Barron pass for 48 yards and another score.
“I was proud of our kids to battle back,” said Barron. “You get in the middle of the fourth quarter and you're down a score. We had a good chance. I was proud of our kids for doing that.”
NorthWood would come back to put two more on the board late in the contest that would put it out of reach as Jaden Miller took a long run for a score and moments later would score again after an acrobatic interception by Kyle Sellers got the ball inside the five.
“They showed their grit on the other side of the ball,” said Barron of the Panthers. “They came out and moved the ball.”
Plymouth falls to 7-2 and a share of the NLC title. They take on Kankakee Valley at home to start the playoffs. NorthWood ends at 6-3 and will face Wawasee in round one sectional action.
•NORTHWOOD 40, PLYMOUTH 20
Plymouth 0 3 10 7 — 20
Northwood 7 7 13 13 — 40
09:16 NWOOD - Malone 3 yd run (Sanchez kick)
05:09 PLYM - Adrian Cardona 24 yd field goal
00:45 NWOOD - Newcomer 4 yd run (Sanchez kick)
11:14 PLYM - Adrian Cardona 35 yd field goal
07:43 NWOOD - Miller 36 yd pass from Newcomer (Sanchez kick)
05:56 NWOOD - Newcomer 55 yd run (Sanchez kick blocked)
03:31 PLYM - Seth Rundell 25 yd pass from Joe Barron (Adrian Cardona kick)
09:04 PLYM - Jake Reichard 48 yd run
03:45 NWOOD - Miller 37 yd run (Sanchez kick failed)
02:06 NWOOD - Miller 1 yd run (Sanchez kick)
RUSHING: Plymouth-Ivan Winkle 15-68, Jake Reichard 2-34, Joe Barron 3-11, Bradley Pittman 3-minus 6. Northwood-Newcomer 21-129, Miller 16-88, Mestach 7-50, Malone 2-1.
PASSING: Plymouth-Joe Barron 23-46-2-315. Northwood-Newcomer 4-9-0-75.
RECEIVING: Plymouth-Seth Rundell 11-89, Jake Reichard 5-77, Ivan Winkle 4-77, Garr Schrameyer 3-72. Northwood-Miller 2-38, Borkholder 1-29, Kyle Sellers 1-8.
INTERCEPTIONS: Plymouth-None. Northwood-Kyle Sellers 1-48, Fattorusso 1-38.
FUMBLES: Plymouth-Ivan Winkle 1-1, Joe Barron 1-0. Northwood-Mestach 1-1.
SACKS (UA-A): Plymouth-Blake Davis 1-0. Northwood-Borkholder 1-0.
TACKLES (UA-A): Plymouth-Blake Davis 8-0, Jake Reichard 5-0