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Bobcat football shocks Trinity in overtime

by Matt Perloff
Editor of The Record Enterprise

Plymouth's Justin Robinson (23) leaps over a Trinity defender taken down by teammate Chad Merrill (60) during an early drive in the Bobcats' 36-35 overtime win over the Pioneers Saturday at Zoulias Field. Matt Perloff. (click for larger version)
October 06, 2014
PLYMOUTH — Plymouth Regional High School football has its first win of 2014, and no one in attendance is likely to forget how they got it.

Down 15 with less than five minutes to go and facing fourth down deep in their own territory, the Bobcats stepped up to force overtime, then stuffed a do-or-die two-point conversion attempt to eke out a 36-35 stunner over Trinity during Homecoming weekend Saturday afternoon at Zoulias Field.

Justin Robinson ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more in a late-game turn behind center to lead Plymouth (1-3) in an intense, come-from-behind victory over perennial contender Trinity (2-2). It's the first win for Bobcats head coach Chris Sanborn, and a big boost heading forward as the Plymouth delivers a sudden jolt to Division II action.

The Bobcats had the advantage early on, striking on their opening drive. Plymouth opened on their own 30 yard line, but four straight carries by Robinson brought them into Trinity territory. Sam Slaughter greeted the Pioneer defense with 19 yards on his first carry to bring the ball down to the 16 yard line, and three plays later, Robinson crossed the goal line from two yards out to put Plymouth on the board. Connor Nolan entered to deliver the extra point kick, putting the Bobcats up 7-0 just over four minutes in.

Trinity's first offensive foray was brief. The Pioneers set up on their own 38 yard line following the kick return, but fumbled the opening snap. Aaron Evans was first to the stray ball, bringing the Bobcat offense right back to the field with only 13 seconds off the clock since they'd scored.

Trinity's offense took the field again after a short Bobcat possession, making short but steady gains as they worked their way into Plymouth territory by the end of the first quarter. The Pioneers brought the ball all the way down to the goal line a few plays later before a holding penalty brought them all the way back to the 26, but the third down and 17 scenario didn't phase them as they scored on the very next play, then added a two-point conversion to make it 8-7 two minutes into the second quarter.

The Bobcats opened their next possession on their own 29 and immediately picked up 10 yards on a run by Slaughter, then broke deep into Trinity territory three plays later on a six-yard carry by Slaughter, coupled with a 15-yard penalty against the Pioneers to bring the ball all the way down to the Trinity 31. The Bobcats couldn't capitalize though, hit with a holding penalty and a third down sack which pushed them back towards midfield, eventually turning the ball over on downs after a failed fourth down conversion.

Neither team scored on their next drives, but Trinity got one more blow in before halftime, breaking away for a 61-yard touchdown run on the first play of their final first-half possession. They'd add another two-point conversion to go with it, taking a 16-7 lead into the break.

Plymouth opened the second half on the defensive. Trinity held onto the ball for nearly six minutes as they crawled downfield, but Chad Merrill derailed the drive when he caught hold of a Pioneer ball carrier's ankle to drag him down in the backfield, forcing fourth down and 13. Chris Comeau then deflected a pass attempt to keep the drive alive, turning the ball over to the Bobcats at their own 29.

Plymouth's next drive actually started with a fumble, but the tone was very different from there. Robinson followed up with a 10-yard run on the next play, then two plays later broke through the Trinity defense for his biggest run of the afternoon, sprinting 42 yards before getting chased out of bounds just inside the Trinity red zone. Slaughter took the next handoff and covered the rest, escaping some early take down attempts before running free to an 18-yard touchdown run. Nolan added another extra point kick, closing the gap to 16-14.

Trinity spent the remainder of the third trying to pull away again with a couple of big gains on the ground near the end of the third quarter, including a 22-yard run to bring the ball down to the Plymouth 15. Gains of five and nine yards concluded the frame with the ball one yard shy of the goal line, and the fourth quarter opened with the completion of that drive, a one-yard touchdown run and an extra point kick to put Trinity back in command, 23-14.

An afternoon of gray skies and drizzle finally turned to all-out rain at this point, and just as the weather took a turn for the worse, so too seemed Plymouth's chances. The Bobcats punted the ball away after three fruitless plays on their next possession, but the rain-soaked fields didn't slow the Pioneers, scoring on the first play with a 66-yard touchdown run. Though they'd miss the two-point conversion, their lead now stood at 29-14. Plymouth's next drive ended on a fumble, but their defense kept Trinity at bay this time, including a pair of tackles by Tom Hamel and a fourth down stop by Quinn Orr to force a turnover on downs at Plymouth's 30.

The Bobcats lost a first down on their next drive following a holding penalty, but facing fourth down and 10 with under five minutes to go, Plymouth's afternoon suddenly took a stunning turn. With Robinson now behind center, the Bobcats opted to go to the air to keep things alive, and what resulted was a deep pass to Amani Mwingira, who stayed ahead of the Trinity defense as he capped the 70-yard completion in the end zone. Nolan added the extra point kick, and the reinvigorated Bobcats were back in striking distance, 29-21.

Plymouth's onside kick to try and recover the ball failed, but the defense once again stepped up. Hamel added to his late-game tally with three more stops to force fourth down with three yards to go, but the Pioneers ended up going three yards backwards on the conversion attempt as Jason Murray broke into the backfield, taking down the ball carrier to force a turnover on downs and one more Bobcat opportunity with less than three minutes to go.

The Bobcats once again pelted Trinity's defense with a mix of air and ground attacks, but an encroachment penalty provided one of the biggest blows, setting up a first down at the Trinity 27 with under two minutes to go. Robinson, still at quarterback, plowed up the middle on a keeper for the first seven yards, then two plays later, took another keeper and trailed lineman Nate Comeau, who busted open a hole along the sideline for the senior captain to take off on a 20-yard touchdown run. Plymouth needed two points to keep their afternoon alive and Slaughter delivered as he battled into the end zone for the conversion, making it 29-29 with 1:16 left in regulation. Trinity made things interesting with a strong kickoff return to the Plymouth 40, but Murray made a stop for no gain on the first play, then down to their last chance two plays later, the Pioneers tried to run again, only to get caught by Orr and spun around by Hamel for a three-yard loss and the end of the quarter, sending the game to overtime.

Each team was given four plays to score from 10 yards out, with Plymouth going first. The Bobcats were stopped for a loss on the first play, but Robinson passed up the middle on the next attempt, finding Jim Wieliczko in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. Plymouth played it safe on the extra point, turning to Nolan for the kick and a 36-29 advantage. Trinity then took the field for its shot, and would reach the one-yard line after two plays, but while Plymouth stopped them short on third down, the Pioneers completed the drive on their fourth and final chance, making it 36-35. Trinity opted for the win-or-lose two-point conversion, but the Bobcat defense kept up its late game resilience, stopping them once more at the goal line to complete the stunning come-from-behind victory.

Robinson finished with over 250 total yards and four touchdowns between his rushing and passing efforts, including 25 carries on the ground and completing three of five attempts in the air. Slaughter also had a big game, rushing for over 70 yards on 11 attempts, while Mwingira racked up over 80 yards receiving. The defense had several key contributors, including big late game tackles by Hamel, Orr and Murray, downfield coverage by Robinson, Orr, Garrett Macomber, Jonathan Morse and Chris Comeau and line coverage by Evans, Merrill, Nate Comeau and Chris Frawley, among other efforts.

The win is a big step for the young Bobcats, who can still make noise in the North Conference as they enter the second half of the season, starting this Friday evening at Laconia as they take on the rival Sachems (3-1) at 7 p.m. They return to Zoulias Field Saturday, Oct. 18, to take on Kearsarge.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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