Bobcat football dominates first half to down Windham


by Matt Perloff
Editor of The Record Enterprise

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John Thomas sprints towards the first of Plymouth’s six touchdowns on the day in Saturday’s 42-25 victory over Windham. Matt Perloff. (click for larger version)
October 01, 2012
PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth Regional High School football team prevailed in a battle of Division IV's last unbeaten teams this past weekend, rallying early to secure a 42-25 victory over Windham in Saturday's Homecoming Game at Zoulias Field.

The Bobcats (5-0) scored on their first six possessions and led a lopsided first-half attack as they claimed a critical victory over the Jaguars (4-1), their last undefeated opponent and perhaps biggest regular season challenge.

The Bobcats took possession first and opened with steady gains by Brandon Goodale and Jared Kuehl, but their breakthrough came when John Thomas took his first handoff from Collin Sullivan, charging 26 yards and into the end zone for a touchdown. Silas Murray came in to kick the extra point, giving Plymouth a 7-0 advantage just over three minutes in.

Windham persevered through their first possession to tie the game, but the Bobcats battled right back. Kuehl opened the drive by punching through the Jaguar defense for eight yards, then Goodale used evasive tactics two plays later as he faked out defenders en route to 17 yards. Thomas again provided the final strike, racing for the sideline as teammates kept the Windham defense tied up in the middle of the field. The Jaguars would eventually catch up to the junior running back, but not before he'd crossed the goal line to complete a 46-yard touchdown run, putting the Bobcats back on top, 13-7.

Plymouth's defense turned up the pressure on Windham's next possession, with big tackles from Noah Crane and Ryan Farina, as well as Kuehl, Kyle Reisert and Brandon David combining on a sack to eventually force a Jaguar punt as the second quarter opened. Goodale returned the ball to Plymouth's 42, where Sullivan handed off to four carriers to work the ball deep into Windham territory. The Bobcats were down to the one-yard line when Sullivan took it in himself, falling across the goal line for the touchdown. Goodale took the ball in on the two-point conversion to make it 21-7.

Windham came back fighting on its next possession, moving deep into Plymouth territory on a pair of passes. The second only got as far as David though, who delivered a hard hit to knock the ball out of the Jaguar receiver's hands and into the possession of Farina, who downed it at the Bobcat 25. The drive started strong, but it was slow going for several plays until Plymouth reached the Windham red zone. They were down to the 13 when Thomas tried to run the ball up the middle, staggering through the other side and regaining his balance to finish off the 13-yard touchdown run, good for a 27-7 Bobcat lead.

Windham didn't have much time to turn things around, losing the ball just three plays into the next drive when Jon Hughes recovered another fumble to set up Plymouth possession at the Windham 34. Goodale took the first handoff 13 yards, then Sullivan found Reisert with a deep pass, which the junior receiver took into the end zone for another touchdown. Goodale wrapped the drive up with another two-point conversion, sending Plymouth to a 35-7 lead at halftime.

Windham opened the second half with a touchdown, but Noah Crane stopped the two-point conversion to keep the Jaguars down, 35-13. Reisert then recovered the onside kick, but Plymouth struggled to gain any momentum on the drive as they eventually faced fourth down and nine. Sullivan covered the nine yards they needed though, and Goodale made good on it two plays later, scoring from 15 yards out for the touchdown and a 42-13 lead following Murray's extra point kick.

Windham would need the rest of the third quarter to make another dent in Plymouth's lead, scoring a touchdown but again failing to get past the Plymouth defense on the two-point conversion as they still trailed 42-19. The onside kick also failed again as Hughes caught the kick and Plymouth seemed poised to score again before a fumble at the one-yard line spared Windham from falling farther behind. The Jaguars would battle the whole 99 yards back to the other end for the touchdown, but the extra point kick fared no better than Windham's two-point attempts, as Crane made a diving block to keep it at 42-25. That also left just four and a half minutes on the board, and with Dylan Hall catching the onside kick, the Bobcats held onto the ball the rest of the way to secure the win.

Goodale was a workhorse for the Bobcat offense, taking 23 handoffs for 174 yards and a touchdown, while Thomas racked up 136 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 carries. Sullivan combined for 45 yards on four carries and a pass, scoring two touchdowns, while Kuehl added 48 yards on seven carries and Justin Robinson ran for 33 yards on five handoffs.

The defense also came up big for Plymouth, despite taking a big second-half hit as Kuehl and captain Hugh Kelly both went down with knee injuries. Thomas was just as much a threat on both sides of the ball as he racked up a team-high 12 tackles and eight assists, while David delivered nine tackles, assisted on five and forced a fumble. Other top contributors included Robinson (eight tackles, five assists), Farina (six tackles, seven assists, fumble recovery), Reisert (five tackles, seven assists), Hall (four tackles, four assists) and Hughes (four tackles, four assists, fumble recovery) also led the defensive effort.

Plymouth's schedule downshifts sharply over the final four games of the season, as three of their last four opponents enter the weekend a combined 2-13. The only remaining team with a winning record, former Division V champion St. Thomas (4-1), lost 51-7 to Windham. The Bobcats will be on the road their next two games, starting this Friday at 7 p.m. against Laconia (1-4).

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