NATE EMERSON tries to escape the grasp of a Plymouth defender in action Saturday. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
November 11, 2013PLYMOUTH — Kennett football coach Mike Holderman had a game plan in place that he and his fellow coaches believed would be the right one to stop the Plymouth Bobcats when the two teams met up in the Division II North Conference championship game on Saturday, Nov. 9, in Plymouth.
However, the Bobcats had other ideas.
The hosts jumped out to a very quick lead and never looked back, ending the Kennett season with a 35-12 decision in the first-ever conference championship game.
"How many plays did we leave out there on this field in the first half," Holderman said. "We had guys open, we just couldn't get the ball to them.
"We had the plays there, that's what we wanted to see," he continued.
From the get go, the Eagles tried to throw a wrinkle into the game, as they went for an onside kick in the opening kickoff of the game. Plymouth recovered and went just over 50 yards for the first score of the game less than four minutes in.
"We had a great onside kick, we just did not get it," Holderman said. "If we get that, it might be a different game."
The Eagles recovered a key onside kick a week earlier against Kingswood, allowing them to rally late for the win.
The Bobcats did work for their first touchdown, needing a total of seven plays to cover the ground, eventually running in from 11 yards out.
"They had to fight for everything they got," Holderman said of the first drive. "They had to work for every yard."
Kennett came out throwing, as quarterback Will Pollard hit Nick Graziano and Nate Emerson on consecutive passes to bring the Eagles out to midfield. However, they got no further and had to punt away. Bowen Wales did a nice job getting down the field to stop the return.
The Eagles, however, could not stop the Bobcats on the ensuing drive, as the hosts went down the field and scored on a seven-yard run for a 14-0 lead with 3:34 to go in the first quarter.
Kennett didn't even get a chance to go on offense after the touchdown, as a fumble on the kick return was recovered by the Bobcats and Kennett had to go back on defense. Plymouth needed just three plays to cover the 28 yards, getting a 17-yard run but no extra point for a 20-0 lead with 2:49 to go in the first.
Kennett's next drive lasted all of two plays, as Pollard's pass up the middle was picked off on a diving grab by Plymouth defender John Thomas. The Bobcats marched down the field to the 15 yard line as the clock ran out on the first quarter.
Four plays later, the Bobcats were in the end zone and converted the extra point for a 27-0 lead with 10:19 to go in the half.
A quick pass from Pollard to Arnold got Kennett a first down out of the gate on the next drive, but the defense stopped there and the Eagles had to punt away.
The Bobcats then got into the turnover game, as Adam Hutchings stepped in front of a Bobcat pass on the first play from scrimmage, giving the Eagles great field position. However, they couldn't get a first down and Plymouth took over again.
This Bobcat drive also only lasted for one play, as Steve Cotton pounced on a fumble and Kennett took over. Once again, the offense couldn't move the ball and Pollard's dive on fourth and two came up short, giving Plymouth the ball back.
While the Bobcats were able to move the ball on the next drive, the outcome was the same as the previous two drives, as Arnold recovered a Bobcat fumble and Kennett took over.
The offense continued to sputter and the Eagles had to punt away, giving Plymouth another chance to get on the board before the half. The Bobcats took advantage, needing just two plays to go 56 yards. The two-point conversion was good and the Bobcats took a 35-0 lead with 42 seconds to go in the half and took that lead to the break.
Kennett was able to get on the board out of the gate in the second half. A pass to Graziano got a key first down on third and nine and Arnold hauled in a 37-yard touchdown pass with 8:45 to go in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 35-6.
Casey Sandman and Cotton had nice defensive stops to hold Plymouth on the next drive and a pass to Graziano got a quick first down for the Eagles. However, the drive tied out and Plymouth took over. Hutchings and Shane O'Neil had solid defensive plays to close out the third quarter.
Sandman had a big stop on fourth and three to get the Eagles the ball back early in the fourth quarter, but Plymouth recovered a fumble two plays later to get the ball back.
The Eagles returned the favor, with Dylan Eldridge recovering a Bobcat fumble on their next drive. The Eagles were able to string together some offense after the fumble recovery. Pollard hit Grant Meserve and Hutchings on back-to-back passes and scrambled for a first down before Arnold ran in from eight yards out, cutting the lead to 35-12.
The two teams exchanged fumble recoveries before the Bobcats were able to run the clock out and close out the 35-12 win.
"I was 100 percent pleased with the defensive effort," Holderman said. "In the second half, we shut them down."
Holderman also praised the work of retiring Plymouth coaching legend Chuck Lenahan and his staff and players.
"Chuck does a great job, I have all the respect in the world for him and his staff," Holderman said. "And they're good football players."
He noted that the Eagles haven't been in the playoffs in four years, while Plymouth is a perennial playoff contender, giving them the edge in high-pressure games.
"I don't think the kids shied away from it," Holderman said. "The kids played their butts off.
"But those Plymouth kids are in it every year and they know what it's about," he added.
With both Drew McDonald and Nick Sherwood on the bench with injuries, Holderman was short even more than usual on the sidelines. But he praised Pollard and Graziano for their work. Pollard has been dealing with an ankle injury for the past few weeks, while Graziano left last week's game at Kingswood with bruised ribs.
"Nothing was keeping Will out of this game," Holderman said. "Same with Nick.
"They are the type of kids who are going to build this program up."
Kennett finished the regular season at 5-4, finishing second in the North Conference of Division II. After an 8-1 regular season, Plymouth moves on to the Division II semifinals against Sanborn on Saturday.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.