Bobcat football cruises in season finale


by Matt Perloff
Editor of The Record Enterprise

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Plymouth's Justin Robinson carries the ball during the first quarter of Saturday's 36-6 win over Merrimack Valley. Matt Perloff. (click for larger version)
November 04, 2013
PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth Regional High School is headed to the postseason as the top team in Division II, closing out the regular season with a 36-6 win over Merrimack Valley last Saturday at Zoulias Field.

Both teams entered at 7-1, but the Bobcats held control from the opening kickoff, notching touchdowns from both the offense and defense in the first three minutes and never looking back. The win gives Plymouth the best rating in Division II, securing home field advantage for as long as they're in the playoffs.

Justin Robinson would receive the opening kickoff for Plymouth, scooping the ball up at the 20 and nearly running it all the way back to the end zone before finally getting knocked down at the Merrimack Valley 13 yard line; three plays later, Jared Kuehl would finish it off with a six-yard run and Jim Nolan put the extra point kick through the uprights to make it a 7-0 game just 85 seconds in.

Merrimack Valley tried to fight back with its passing game. They'd open with a six-yard completion, but John Thomas snared a low-flying pass up the middle on the next attempt, then ran it 30 yards and into the end zone for another Plymouth touchdown. The Bobcats opted for a two-point conversion following a penalty, and Jared Kuehl delivered to make it a 15-0 game, still with 9:51 left in the first quarter.

A failed fourth down conversion gave the Bobcats possession again on the Merrimack Valley 44. Though they'd suffer two five-yard setbacks, carries by Robinson and Kuehl would still get Plymouth into the end zone soon enough. The drive faced a goal line scare when Kuehl lost the ball as he went down on the last play, but Evan Bolognani smothered it to secure the touchdown and a 22-0 lead following Nolan's extra point.

A fake punt saved Merrimack Valley from going three and out on its next possession, but the Bobcats eventually forced another fourth down at their own 27, where an incomplete pass gave the ball back to Plymouth. The Bobcats eventually responded with big back-to-back gains, including a 45-yard pass to Kyle Reisert and a 28-yarder to Amani Mwingira, who nearly took it all the way before getting dragged down at the seven yard line.

The drive would lose momentum, however, and the Bobcats turned the ball over on downs at the Merrimack Valley two. Reisert just missed sacking the Pride quarterback for a safety, but the ball would eventually come back to Plymouth on a short, line drive punt to the Merrimack Valley 22. Though the drive opened with an incomplete pass, Thomas would square things away with three straight carries, wrapping it up with a 10-yard rush up the middle for the touchdown and a 29-0 lead.

Plymouth came up short of scoring again before the half, but they'd come out strong in the second half. Merrimack Valley started with possession, but were forced to punt after being pushed back on three straight plays, including a big sack by Reisert on third down that left the Pride nearly 30 yards from the first down marker. Plymouth was in Merrimack Valley territory when they faced fourth down and five, but Robinson gave the Bobcats 15 yards on the conversion attempt. Robinson and Thomas would whittle away at the remaining distance with short gains, with Robinson finishing the 11-play, six-minute drive with a four-yard sprint up the middle as Plymouth took a 36-0 lead.

Plymouth would put its reserves on the field the rest of the way, continuing to stifle Merrimack Valley down the stretch. Dylan Cooper recovered a fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter and the Pride would fumble on the first play of their next possession as well, this time with Tyler Person sliding in to recover. Merrimack Valley would finally score a touchdown in the final two minutes, but that was the only blemish as Plymouth ran out the clock to seal the win.

Robinson led the Bobcats with 65 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, while Thomas ran the ball 13 times for 55 yards and a touchdown. Kuehl saw limited action due to an injury, but still racked up over 30 yards and a touchdown on six carries, good enough to put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Sullivan gave Plymouth some solid passing numbers as well, completing five of nine passes for almost 100 yards. On defense, Reisert and Thomas each finished with eight tackles and six assists, while Jason Murray and Nate Comeau anchored the defensive line with four tackles and four assists apiece.

The conference finals will be the first hurdle in the new postseason format, with Plymouth and Kennett vying for the right to advance to the semifinals as the North champion. Semifinal matchups will depend on who advances, though the Bobcats, holding the division's best rating of 156 points 10 for each win, two more for each of their opponents' wins have home field advantage in any scenario should they reach. They'll aim to secure that trip this Saturday at Zoulias Field, with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m.

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