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Historic streak ends as Cats fall to Kennett

Plymouth quarterback Jack Ringlein leaps over fallen players during a play Friday night in the Bobcats’ 20-9 loss to Kennett. (Joshua Spaulding/Carroll County Independent) (click for larger version)
September 22, 2010
CONWAY — The Plymouth Regional High School football team saw its historic winning streak come to an end under the lights Friday night, suffering a rare setback in a 20-9 loss to Kennett.

At 57 games, Plymouth entered with not only the longest winning streak in NHIAA history, but also the longest active streak in the nation for 11-man high school football.

It was déjà vu for the Bobcats (2-1), who in 2004 saw a then-state record 46-game winning streak also snapped at the hands of the Eagles (2-1). Kennett failed in its bid to stop Plymouth from setting a new mark last year and seemed fated to get knocked aside again in 2010, but the Bobcats couldn't overcome key penalties and turnovers in the second half as the young squad took its first big lumps in the re-building effort.

Plymouth received the opening kickoff and ate up most of the first quarter with its opening drive. Running backs Taylor Newberry, Byron O'Donnell and Brandon Goodale kept the ball moving all the way to the red zone, while quarterback Jack Ringlein finished the drive, taking it in himself from 11 yards out for the touchdown. Kicker David Thibault found the uprights on the extra point kick, giving the Bobcats a 7-0 lead with just under four minutes left in the frame.

Kennett's first possession was even less promising for the hosts. After three uneventful plays, the Eagles set up to punt on fourth down, but the snap went high and into the end zone. The punter was able to push the ball out of bounds, settling for a safety as Plymouth took a 9-0 lead.

The next several minutes were uneventful for both offenses. The Kennett defense tightened up to keep Plymouth from notching a first down on either of its next two possessions, but the Bobcats would keep up their early momentum as well, holding the Eagles to another three and out possession.

It was late in the second half when the hosts finally got something going, their running game able to eat up yards as they battled their way to the Bobcat end zone. Less than a minute remained in the half when Kennett finally crossed the goal line, a one-yard run by Nick Massa for the touchdown. Logan Spoor booted the extra point to put the Eagles right back in the ballgame, 9-7.

The tables continued to turn against Plymouth as soon as they returned for the second half. Two penalties on the opening kickoff forced them to kick from the 30-yard line, but Kennett couldn't take advantage of the situation, converting on one fourth down but getting shut down for a fourth and 14 the second time around as they chose to punt.

Newberry got Plymouth's next possession going strong with a 16-yard run, but was shut down on the next carry. Things fell apart soon after, as the Bobcats fumbled on the next play, allowing Kennett's Levi Bescos to recover at the Bobcat 35.

Four plays later, and with three minutes left in the third, Matt Gadomski took it into the end zone from 22 yards out, followed by an extra point kick as the Bobcats found themselves trailing for the first time this season, 14-9.

Neither team could get a drive going on their next possessions, but Kennett's would prove key as they failed to convert on fourth and two, giving the Bobcats possession at the Eagles' 38 yard line. Ringlein delivered on the opportunity with a 21-yard run on the opening play, but an illegal block to the head penalty called the play back. The blow also took away Plymouth's momentum, as the Bobcats couldn't recover and were eventually forced to punt.

Already hit with a delay of game penalty, Plymouth would lose even more ground when another penalty was called following a tackle on a fair catch, putting Kennett on their own 34-yard line and only eight minutes left to play.

The Eagles used their possession to eat up both time and yards as they slowly worked their way up the field on running plays. The hosts took nearly six minutes before Dustin Stewart closed out the drive on a one-yard touchdown run, putting them ahead 20-9.

Kennett would miss the extra point, but the damage was clear for Plymouth as they faced an 11-point deficit and just 2:38 left to make up the difference.

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they weren't able to pull it together on their next possession, and give the ball back to Kennett, who'd hang on until turning it over on downs with just 26 seconds remaining. Ringlein's pass to open the possession was picked off, letting the Eagles run out the clock for the victory.

Penalties and turnovers played a key role in Friday night's game. The Bobcats were hit for eight penalties to a tune of 80 yards, while three fumbles and an interception helped give Kennett the opportunities they'd need to take command and hold on late.

Newberry, who notched seven touchdowns and more than 350 yards in the first two games, led the Bobcats' offensive effort with 13 carries for 60 yards, as well as turning in nine tackles and six assists on defense. Cole Brooker returned to the gridiron with six tackles and seven assists, while Nick Reisert delivered four tackles and five assists.

Up on the defensive line, Nick Blake turned in a solid day with five tackles and five assists, while Adam Dropkin delivered four tackles and five assists.

While the streak is over, the Bobcats' season is anything but, though they've still got plenty of challenges ahead as they continue to build up the experience and chemistry the young team will need with Division IV boasting a number of title contenders this season.

Among those is the Bobcats' next challenger, Trinity, who topped Laconia last Friday night as the reigning Division V champions continue their successful transition to D-4. Plymouth and Trinity will face off at Gill Stadium in Manchester on Friday night at 7 p.m. The game can also be heard live via radio at WPNH 1300 AM.

Martin Lord & Osman
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