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Kings in the North

Bobcats take conference title

by Matt Perloff
Editor of The Record Enterprise

Captains (l to r) Kyle Reisert, John Thomas, Collin Sullivan and Jared Kuehl pose with the Division II North Conference championship plaque after Saturday's win over Kennett. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
November 11, 2013
PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth Regional High School football team prevailed in the first stage of the new postseason format last weekend, besting Kennett 35-12 to win the inaugural Division II North Conference championship Saturday afternoon at Zoulias Field.

The Bobcats (9-1) struck early and often against the Eagles (5-5), overcoming three second quarter turnovers to amass a 35-0 lead at halftime and never looking back. The conference title sends Plymouth to familiar postseason territory, as they advance to the semifinals of the Division II tournament this Saturday.

Kennett would try an onside kick on the opening kickoff, but Plymouth recovered at their own 49 yard line and went to work from there. John Thomas led off the drive with a 10-yard run, then he and Justin Robinson whittled down the remaining distance on shorter gains before Robinson scored from nine yards out for the first touchdown of the day. Jim Nolan delivered the extra point kick, giving the Bobcats a 7-0 lead just over three minutes into the first quarter.

The Eagles completed a pair of passes to open their first possession, but stops by Jason Murray and John Thomas and an incomplete pass quelled their momentum, and they were forced to punt, with Plymouth taking possession at their own 21. Robinson delivered the day's biggest gain two plays later, bursting through the middle and sprinting 44 yards before finally going down at the Kennett 27. Shorter gains by Thomas and Robinson followed, but they'd ultimately get the job done as Thomas capped the drive with a six-yard carry, which Nolan complimented with an extra point kick to make it 14-0, still with 3:34 left in the first.

Turnovers steered the action over the rest of the half, though the advantage went to Plymouth early. Fresh off their touchdown, the Bobcat offense took the field again as Giovanni Troila recovered a Kennett fumble on the kickoff return. Plymouth needed just three plays to find the end zone again, as Thomas took the handoff and bolted for the end zone with the Eagle defense right on his heels. He'd go the whole 17 yards untouched though, and the Bobcats took a 20-0 lead.

Kennett hung onto the ball on its next possession and opened with a 13-yard gain, but the Eagles tried to breach midfield with a low-flying pass up the middle, which Thomas snared with a diving interception to put Plymouth back in control at their own 44. Collin Sullivan hit James Wieliczko with a 20-yard pass to open the drive, and Robinson capped it with back-to-back seven-yard runs for the touchdown. Nolan would kick the extra point following a penalty, finding the uprights despite the extra distance to make it a 27-0 game early in the second quarter.

Plymouth's offense ran into trouble on its next three possessions. Kennett was forced to punt again following a pass deflection by Thomas and a big stop by Kyle Reisert, but the Bobcats lost the ball on just one play as Reisert tried to make a leaping grab on a pass by Sullivan, only to have it deflect off his hand and into the arms of a Kennett defender for the interception. The Bobcat defense again persevered, getting a sack by Reisert and two passes that ultimately left the Eagles short on fourth down, but Plymouth's next possession was no longer, as a fumble on the opening play was again recovered by Kennett. Another pass deflection by Thomas and a fourth down stop by Sean Zaikowski put the Bobcat offense back on the gridiron, but while they'd make progress this time, they'd bring the ball down to the Kennett 39 before fumbling again, with Kennett recovering for the third turnover in a row.

The Bobcats wouldn't finish out the half on a low note though, as they got the ball one more time with a minute to go in the second quarter. Sullivan kicked off the drive with a deep pass to Reisert, who hauled it in for a 43-yard pickup to bring the ball to the Kennett 13, where Sullivan connected with Robinson to finish off the drive with another touchdown. Robinson would also run the ball in on the two-point conversion, giving the Bobcats a 35-0 lead at the break.

Kennett struck back with a touchdown to open the third quarter, but the running clock dampened any chance at a comeback, as the Bobcat reserves ate up time over the final two frames. The defense also played solidly over Kennett's next two possessions, including a highlight early in the fourth quarter when Chris Comeau intercepted a pass, then lost it as he was hit by the Kennett defense, only to have Smith Merrill dive in and recover the ball to keep the ball in Plymouth's hands. The Bobcats got one more fumble recovery in the homestretch, this time by John Salivonchik to give the hosts control as the final two minutes ticked away, sealing the win for the hosts.

Robinson once again stepped up with a big game for Plymouth, running for 110 yards on 14 carries and scoring three touchdowns, including one on his lone pass reception. Thomas added 109 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, while Sullivan made up for a rare interception by completing his other three passes for 76 yards and a touchdown.

Thomas led a strong all-around effort by the Bobcat defense, racking up 10 tackles and four assists while knocking down three passes and intercepting another. Reisert added five tackles and four assists along with a sack, while Cody Vachon provided solid coverage at defensive back with four tackles and three assists. Nate Comeau and Jason Murray provided key performances at inside tackle, while Robinson, Merrill and Gavin Brickley also had solid games.

The Bobcats, ranked number one in Division II, will host Saturday's semifinal contest with Sanborn (6-4), who earned the fourth seed after stunning previously-unbeaten Monadnock (9-1) 18-9 to claim the west conference. Portsmouth (9-1) barely escaped the east with a 37-34 win over Merrimack Valley (7-3) to claim the second seed, but will host Trinity (8-2), who avenged a regular season loss to Windham (8-2) with a 38-0 rout to claim the south and the third seed. The Clippers, the only team to beat Plymouth this season, suffered their own lone defeat against the Pioneers.

Game time for Saturday's semifinal is 1 p.m. at Zoulias Field; with a win, the Bobcats would host the championship game the following Saturday, also at 1 p.m.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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