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Bobcat football cruises into finals

Coach Lenahan's final game set for Saturday afternoon

by Matt Perloff
Editor of The Record Enterprise

Jared Kuehl barrels toward the end zone in semifinal action on Saturday. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
November 18, 2013
PLYMOUTH — The Land of Lenahan will host one more title game with its celebrated head coach at the helm, as the Plymouth Regional High School football team cruised into the Division II championship with a 37-13 win over Sanborn Saturday afternoon at Zoulias Field.

The Bobcats (10-1) took no chances with the upset-minded Indians (6-5), who already knocked off previously-undefeated Monadnock to take the South Conference. Plymouth was on the board in the third minute, then kept the pressure on the rest of the way as they now prepare for a rematch with third-ranked Portsmouth in this Saturday's title game.

A penalty on the opening kickoff would set the Bobcats back to their own 14 yard line to start, but that would only delay first blood. Plymouth led off the drive with three short gains before John Thomas busted out with a 26-yard gain, then Jared Kuehl, in his first handoff of the postseason, weaved through the Sanborn defense and sprinted away to a 40-yard touchdown run. Jim Nolan came in to kick the extra point, putting Plymouth up 7-0 just over two minutes in.

The Bobcats got the ball back less than a minute later, with a solid punt return by Justin Robinson to open the drive on the Sanborn 44. Already with one fourth down conversion on the drive, Plymouth faced another as they set up for fourth and five at the Sanborn 12. Thomas took the handoff and not only gave the Bobcats the five, but the other seven as well as he crossed into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 lead.

A fumble would derail the Bobcats' next possession just a few yards shy of the goal line, but Sanborn would go three and out, their punt only getting to their own 34. Thomas and Robinson would take handoffs over the next six plays to bring the ball down to the one yard line, where Collin Sullivan slipped in himself to score the touchdown for a 21-0 lead midway through the frame.

Sanborn made its first big push on its next possession, getting its first first down of the day despite an eight-yard loss on a Smith Merrill stop to open the drive. The Indians reached the Bobcat red zone, but Kuehl would run down a Sanborn ball carrier for a five-yard loss, and an incomplete pass left Sanborn fourth and long at the Plymouth 13, from which they opted for a field goal. A penalty against the Bobcats coaxed them to try for the first down instead, but the pass would fall incomplete, and Plymouth took possession on downs.

With 1:07 left in the half, the Bobcats made one last push to score. Sullivan and Thomas each turned in big gains, Thomas with a 20-yarder and Sullivan avoiding a sack as he weaved his way to 14 yards, though the Bobcats were still 35 yards shy with seven seconds left. A pass attempt on what looked like their final play fell incomplete, but a pass interference call gave the Bobcats a 15-yard gain with 0.1 seconds left. Plymouth brought in Silas Murray to kick the field goal from just behind the 25 yard line, which he put through the uprights for a 24-0 score at halftime.

Neither team would score on its first possession of the second half, though the Bobcats would soon get a big opportunity when Nolan recovered a fumble deep in Sanborn territory, bringing the Plymouth offense to the field at the Indians' 22. Thomas took the handoff on the next three plays, bursting through the middle on the third for a 14-yard touchdown run. The extra point kick was blocked, but Plymouth still took a 30-0 lead.

Sanborn barely had possession of the ball before Plymouth swiped it back, as Reisert swooped in and stripped the ball right out of the Indian ball carrier's hands to give the Bobcats control just 16 yards shy of the end zone. Reisert then took a pass from Sullivan on the next play, making a leaping catch in the end zone for the touchdown. Murray came in to kick the extra point after a pair of penalties, but the extra distance didn't deter him as he delivered to make it 37-0.

Plymouth let its reserves steer the action the rest of the way, though they'd get one big highlight when Sanborn saw a 22-yard rush erased on a fumble, which Chris Comeau recovered at the Plymouth 13. The Indians scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth, but that was far from enough to threaten the Bobcats, who held possession as time expired to close out the win.

Thomas finished with 172 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 21 carries, making him the second Bobcat to rush for 1,000 yards this season. Kuehl added 71 yards and a touchdown despite taking just three handoffs, while Robinson added 35 yards on 10 carries and Sullivan racked up over 40 total yards and two touchdowns between rushing and passing efforts.

Thomas also led the defense with 10 tackles and five assists along with two blocked passes, while Reisert added seven tackles, two assists and a sack. Robinson made three tackles, four assists and a sack, while Cody Vachon provided solid downfield coverage with two tackles and three assists. Jason Murray would also add two tackles and three assists, while Aaron Evans logged three tackles and two assists.

The Bobcats will host the Division II championship against Portsmouth (10-1), who came back to defeat Trinity in the semifinals to advance to title game. The Clippers are the only team to beat Plymouth this season, but have struggled to put up victories in their last three contests and emotions will run high in Bobcat Country as head coach Chuck Lenahan's 43-year coaching career comes down to one last shot at a state title. Game time is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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