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Bobcats best Trinity for the first time

by Matt Perloff
Editor of The Record Enterprise

Plymouth’s Dakoda Simula (72) reacts after a successful fumble recovery in Saturday’s win over Trinity. Matt Perloff. (click for larger version)
September 17, 2012
PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth Regional High School football team finally brought down one of its biggest foes last weekend, rolling to a 36-14 win over Trinity Saturday afternoon at Zoulias Field.

The Bobcats (3-0) haven't had an adversary quite like the Pioneers (2-1) in well over a decade, having lost all three contests since the latter's jump to Division IV in 2010. That changed in decisive fashion Saturday as Plymouth kept Trinity's momentum staggered while picking up what may prove a crucial victory as the Division IV race shapes up.

Defense ruled early on as both sides came up empty on their first two possessions, though a blocked punt by Kyle Reisert demonstrated an early upper hand for Plymouth. "Third time's a charm" eventually rang true for the Bobcats; after a slow start and needing to convert on fourth down, quarterback Collin Sullivan provided the biggest push as he scrambled 10 yards late in the drive, then a play later evaded tackles in the backfield before taking off on a 20-yard run, coupled with a face mask penalty to put the ball just four yards shy of the goal line. John Thomas had no trouble covering those final yards, sprinting in untouched for the touchdown and a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Trinity battled back with a slow, steady drive in the second quarter. Their momentum was running out when they tried to go to the air on third and long, but a bullet pass up the middle instead found Thomas, already in full sprint toward the other end zone. The hometown crowd erupted as he left the scattered Trinity offense behind in a 75-plus-yard touchdown run. Sullivan then took the ball in himself on the two-point conversion, making it 14-0 midway through the second.

Trinity had a promising kick return going until Jared Kuehl uprooted the carrier on a low tackle, knocking the ball loose and allowing Kyle Hodges to dive in for the recovery at the Trinity 45. The Bobcats were in the red zone when Sullivan baffled the Pioneers again, first carrying the ball eight yards before taking it the final 12 on a rush up the middle for the touchdown. Brandon Goodale took the ball on the two-point conversion, managing to stretch his arms over the goal line as he went down to make it 22-0.

Plymouth got in another strike before halftime after Thomas broke up a fourth down conversion attempt. The Bobcats were facing fourth down themselves when Sullivan hit Kuehl on a short pass, which the latter carried for 12 yards and the first down, plus a penalty against Trinity to move the ball to the Pioneers' 11. Sullivan then fired off another pass to Goodale, who was tackled short of the end zone but again got his arms inside the goal line for the touchdown. Silas Murray hit the extra point kick, making it 29-0 with under a minute left in the second. Trinity bounced back with a strong kick return and scored two plays later in a half-minute drive, but it was only a dent after a half dominated by the Bobcats, who still led 29-8 at the break.

Plymouth struck again early in the third, when Kuehl stopped another fourth down conversion attempt to open at the Trinity 45. The Bobcats eventually faced fourth down and 12 when Sullivan again evaded defenders on a 19-yard run to rekindle the attack. He'd follow up with a 14-yard pass to Dylan Hall, then took it in himself from a yard out for the touchdown, coupled with the extra point from Murray to make it 36-8.

Plymouth's defense struck again on Trinity's next drive, with Reisert and Dakoda Simula making a stop in the backfield while Goodale and Justin Robinson helped break up a pair of passes as the Pioneers entered Bobcat territory. The death blow came when Ryan Farina forced another Trinity fumble, which Simula recovered to put Plymouth back in control.

Trinity would eventually score on its next possession, but time didn't favor the Pioneers' slow progress as they still trailed 36-14 with just over five minutes left in the game. A successful onside kick set up another drive at their own 48, but the first play was a pass too high for the intended receiver. It was just right for Goodale though, who made the leaping interception to return possession to the Bobcats. They'd run out the clock from there thanks to several big gains from Robinson, closing out the 36-14 win.

The defense dominated for Plymouth, turning in several key performances. Thomas' interception return was the highlight of the afternoon, while he, Kuehl and Goodale broke up several passes. Farina, Kuehl, Thomas, Reisert and Simula provided some big tackles, with Farina and Kuehl each forcing fumbles and the Bobcats working together on a number of stops that kept Trinity's gains slow and first downs few and far between.

On offense, Sullivan was a threat no matter what he did with the ball Saturday, rushing for 77 yards and two touchdowns while hitting his last four pass attempts to notch another 44 yards and a touchdown. Goodale took 19 handoffs to rush a team-high 86 yards for the Bobcats, while Robinson and Thomas had solid second halves.

Plymouth follows up a big win over Trinity with another key contest, hitting the road to face Hanover Friday night at 7 p.m.

Author's note: In our Plymouth/Lebanon coverage from the Sept. 6 issue, the article mistakenly referenced only one returning senior starter, as several of this year's seniors started in some capacity last year. We apologize for this error.

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