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Title chase comes up a little short for Bobcats

Plymouth’s Nick Reisert makes a leaping catch on Will Horan’s pass during the second quarter of Saturday’s Division IV state championship against Trinity. Matt Perloff. (click for larger version)
November 14, 2011
MANCHESTER — There's no denying that the Plymouth Regional High School football team returned to prominence in 2011, but their quest to top it off with a title came up short.

The second-seeded Bobcats turned in two explosive drives to try and keep pace with top-ranked Trinity, but could not overcome an early deficit as they fell to the Pioneers 30-14 in Saturday's Division IV championship at Gill Stadium.

Trinity (11-0) scored twice in the first 15 minutes of play to get the jump on Plymouth (9-2), eventually hanging on as they countered each of the Bobcats' scores on their way to the title. Plymouth concluded its season with runner-up honors, a bittersweet finish to a strong campaign that saw the Bobcats return to elite status after missing the postseason a year prior.

Plymouth went three and out on its first possession, but they'd be further hindered as Taylor Newberry was forced to punt directly into the wind, his kick ultimately winding up downed at the Bobcat 42 yard line. Trinity immediately began its push to take command, making several small gains and barely surviving a fourth down before making two double-digit runs on the final four plays on their way to the touchdown. They'd fail on the two-point conversion, but still held a 6-0 lead with 4:31 left in the first quarter.

Plymouth's next possession would also end in three plays, leading to another punt into wind and Trinity taking control at the Bobcat 45. The Pioneers eventually worked their way down to the two-yard line, but Plymouth wouldn't let them get in easily, as Kyle Reisert brought down Trinity running back Adam Chambers for a six-yard loss and Brandon Goodale tackled Josh Hughes to break up a potential touchdown pass. The Pioneers would eventually find their way in though, as Chambers took another handoff and battled the eight yards necessary for the touchdown, which they'd compliment with a two-point conversion to make it 14-0 with 9:10 left in the half.

Neither team would score on its next possession, though Plymouth wouldn't come away empty before halftime. Getting the ball on their own 36 and under five minutes left in the second quarter, the Bobcats gave three straight handoffs to Newberry to fight to within inches of a first down, but Will Horan saved the drive with a quarterback keeper, staying up long enough for the one yard they needed. Plymouth added Nick Reisert to the rushing mix two plays later as he ran the ball for a first down, but the biggest blow came by air, as Reisert made a leaping grab on a pass from Horan, then stayed up for a 24-yard reception to bring the ball down to the Trinity 11. Newberry brought the distance down to single digits before Reisert took the handoff again, battling the last seven yards before crossing the goal line for the touchdown. Though the extra point attempt would deflect off the goal posts, Plymouth was back in the game, 14-6.

Trinity made one last attempt to score before halftime, starting near midfield and immediately battling downfield. They were well into Plymouth territory when they called a timeout with two seconds left to allow one more play, but the Bobcats made it a moot point as Jared Kuehl slammed into receiver Hughes on the last-second pass, knocking the ball loose to end the drive and the half, with Plymouth still trailing by eight.

Trinity would open the second half with possession and made a big push to pick up where they left off, including a 31-yard run by Hughes to move the ball to Plymouth's 36-yard line. That would be as far as the Bobcats let it go though, as Nick D'Ambruoso and Ryan Farina stopped the next carry for a loss, then Nick Reisert took down Chambers two plays later for another four-yard loss. The Pioneers decided to go for the fourth down conversion, but came up well short of the first down to turn the ball over to Plymouth.

The Bobcats' first possession of the half was also unfruitful, eventually ending when Horan's pass on third down was picked off, with the Pioneers taking the ball all the way back to the Plymouth 17. Though two penalties pushed the ball back to the 47, Trinity would eventually cash in on the turnover, scoring on a 13-yard run and adding a two-point conversion to go up 22-6 with 3:44 remaining in the third.

Plymouth bounced right back though, starting at their own 34 and immediately getting two big runs from Nick Reisert and Newberry to move into Trinity territory. Horan then handed off to Goodale for the first time on the day, but while his first carry only picked up one yard, the next would take the Bobcats all the way to the end zone, as Goodale slipped through the Pioneer defense on his way to a 44-yard touchdown run. Newberry would take the handoff on the two-point attempt, working his way in for the conversion and putting Plymouth back in the game, 22-14 with 1:44 left in the third.

Both teams went scoreless on their next possessions as play entered the fourth quarter. Trinity would get the ball at their own 25 following a punt from Plymouth, but came up just short of the first down on three plays, setting up fourth and inches. Trinity would go for the conversion, but ended up with even more as they picked up 34 yards on the play to enter Bobcat territory. They'd keep the ball moving for four more plays before finishing off the drive with an 18-yard pass up the middle, topping it off with another two-point conversion for the 30-14 with just five minutes to go.

With time running out, Plymouth pushed hard on its next possession. Horan would hit Kyle Reisert with a pass to put the ball at midfield, then a 15-yard penalty against Trinity put the Bobcats deep in Pioneer territory, but Plymouth couldn't keep the ball moving forward, getting pushed back on three of the next four plays as they ultimately turned the ball back over on downs. Trinity only needed to hold on to the ball from there, eventually earning a first down with under two minutes to go and kneeling to drain the clock, settling the battle with Trinity taking home the championship.

Nick Reisert finished with 50 yards and two touchdowns between five carries and a reception, while Newberry also racked up 50 yards on over a dozen carries and Goodale notched a touchdown and just under 50 yards despite taking just four handoffs.

The Bobcats got plenty of solid defensive efforts, including big tackles from Farina, D'Ambruoso, Kyle Reisert, Nick Reisert, Corbin Boucher and John Thomas, while Kuehl and Goodale each broke up key passes. Calime Littlefield, Nick Blake and Matt Bownes held down the fort on the line, while Cole Brooker provided plenty of blocking.

Though the Bobcats did not bring home the title this season, the runner-up finish still stands as a testament to the consistency and dedication of the Plymouth football program. The Bobcats barely missed the playoffs in 2010, but built on the experience gained by the young squad last year to once again stand among the top teams in the division, reaching the title game for the 15th time in 18 years.

The Bobcats will part ways with 18 seniors this season, including captains Will Horan and Cole Brooker, Nick Reisert, Taylor Newberry, Will Melanson, Calime Littlefield, Nick Blake, Corbin Boucher, Matt Bownes, Nick D'Ambruoso, Nate Williams, Cody Oesch, Brady Goodwin, Jared Benson, Dylan Bartlett, Aaron Williams, Michael Bancroft and Dylan Hand. With several young starters and many more underclassmen ready to step up, Bobcat football already has a strong foundation to carry on the pride and tradition in 2012.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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