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Bobcat football cruises in season opener

by Matt Perloff
Editor of The Record Enterprise

Plymouth’s Justin Robinson carries the ball en route to a six-yard touchdown run in Saturday’s 40-21 victory over Lebanon. Matt Perloff. (click for larger version)
September 03, 2012
PLYMOUTH — You may not recognize this year's starting lineup right away, but there's no mistaking the results Plymouth Regional High School football is known for.

The Bobcats kicked off their 2012 campaign with a dominating performance Saturday afternoon, scoring six touchdowns in the first half en route to a 40-21 victory over Lebanon at George Zoulias Field.

Plymouth (1-0), returning just one senior from last year's starters, was hardly phased as both the offense and defense struck early and often against the Raiders (0-1). The Bobcats turned three turnovers into touchdowns and scored another three on a combination of ground and air attacks as they once again start the season in the win column.

Plymouth opened action on their own 43-yard line, but after a few short carries faced fourth down at midfield. They were far from wrapping up their first possession though, as Brandon Goodale rushed eight yards to secure the first down, and the running game racked up almost 20 more yards before Collin Sullivan connected with Kyle Reisert to bring the ball all the way down to the Lebanon five-yard line. Goodale took it into the end zone two plays later, crossing the goal line on a one-yard carry to put Plymouth on the board. John Thomas added on the extra point to give the Bobcats a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

A touchback on Silas Murray's kickoff got Lebanon started on its own 20, but the Raiders looked poised to tie things right back up. They notched two first downs and were just shy of a third when a botched snap left them five yards shy on fourth down, but the Raiders got a big break when Plymouth fumbled the punt recovery, with Lebanon instead regaining possession just eight yards shy of the end zone.

The Bobcats needed just one play to make amends. The Raiders would try to pass on the first play of their renewed drive, but the short passed was deflected by Brandon David and into the hands of Thomas for the interception. Thomas then covered 90-plus yards down Lebanon's sideline, sprinting into the end zone for the touchdown. He followed it up by kicking the extra point, putting Plymouth up 14-0 with three minutes left in the first.

Lebanon's next drive was uneventful, punting deep in their own territory as Plymouth set up at the Raiders' 36-yard line. The Bobcats nearly covered the whole distance on one play as Sullivan hit Ryan Farina with a pass up the middle, the senior captain battling through the middle before going down just seven yards shy of the goal line. Thomas then took it to within a yard, where Sullivan took the next snap and pushed his way in for the touchdown. Though the Bobcats didn't get the extra point, they still held a 20-0 lead with just one quarter in the books.

Plymouth didn't let up in the second quarter. The new frame had barely begun when Reisert stripped the ball from Lebanon's possession, downing it just six yards away from the end zone; two plays later, Justin Robinson took the handoff from Sullivan and crossed the goal line for another Bobcat touchdown, which Thomas followed up with the extra point to make it 27-0.

Lebanon made another push with nearly 30 yards on the first two plays of its next drive, then notched another 15 on a face mask penalty against Plymouth as they reached the Bobcat 35. Lebanon's momentum began to wane as David set them back five yards with a backfield stop on the next play, then Reisert and John Hughes held them to three yards on the next rush before a false start penalty set Lebanon back another five yards. A 13-yard pass revitalized their chances as they faced fourth down and seven, but the next attempt was a low-flying bullet into the hands of Jared Kuehl, who then literally dragged Lebanon players over a 60-yard stretch before finally going down at the Raiders' 22-yard line. Sullivan connected with Noah Crane three plays later, the senior receiver making a leaping grab in the end zone for the touchdown and a 33-0 lead.

Plymouth's defense turned up the pressure on Lebanon's next possession. The Raiders were able to counter most of it with a 40-yard pass up the middle into Bobcat territory, but managed nothing on the next three plays, including a third down pass, which David dove to deflect, leading to another Lebanon punt. Robinson opened the next Plymouth possession with over 20 yards on two carries, then Sullivan found Farina wide open two plays later for a 35-yard touchdown reception, coupled with another extra point from Thomas to make it 40-0. Lebanon got one more possession before halftime, but the Bobcats kept them contained long enough to run down the clock.

Lebanon made some headway as Plymouth switched to reserves in the second half. The Raiders scored on the opening drive of the third quarter and again shortly before the end of the frame, though action slowed down as Lebanon also sent in its reserves for the fourth quarter, adding one more touchdown midway through for the 40-21 final.

Sullivan had a strong showing in his debut as the Bobcats' starting quarterback, completing four of five passes for just over 100 yards and two touchdowns, while adding a third touchdown on the ground. Goodale and Robinson each added 30 rushing yards rushing and a touchdown apiece, while Thomas added a pair of six-yard carries in the first half and Aaron Evans, Chris Comeau and Jim Wieliczko ran against Lebanon's starters during the second half. Plymouth was nearly as productive on the other side of the ball, racking up a touchdown and over 150 yards on two interceptions.

The defense also shined as it kept Lebanon's momentum in check throughout the first half. The Bobcats got key contributions from several players, including interceptions by Thomas and Kuehl and a pair of key pass deflections by David. Reisert, one of the lone returning starters on defense, was once again dominant with a number of tackles along with his fumble recovery, while Farina, Thomas, Goodale, David, Hughes, Crane and Kyle Hodges also provided some key hits. Plymouth also got a strong showing from its linemen, including Sean Zaikowski, Spencer White, Chase Wyman and center Dylan McIntosh on offense, Dakoda Simula on defense and Hugh Kelly on both sides of the ball. Silas Murray also provided a commendable performance at kicker, as Lebanon started most of its possessions on or inside their own 20-yard line thanks to the junior's deep kickoffs.

The Bobcats will head to Conway Friday night to face Kennett, who is coming off a 12-7 loss to St. Thomas. Game time is 7 p.m. The Bobcats' next home game is Saturday, Sept. 15, at 1:30 p.m., as they take on defending champion Trinity in a rematch of last year's title game.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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