By Rusty Nixon
PLYMOUTH – Round two – Plymouth vs. NorthWood – a rematch that has become a familiar one in northern Indiana football and one that has produced some classic matchups in the past.
“It’s a marquee matchup,” said Barron. “It’s a program that’s dominated football in this part of the state and we’ve gone back and forth with them. They beat us (earlier this year) 33-30 and they’ve played very well. They are very, very, very hot right now. It should be a great game.”
This time the contest will be at Plymouth High School and will feature some faces in different spots. Rockie linebacker A.J. Styers was injured in the previous meeting, and NorthWood’s Bronson Yoder has emerged as a key player for the Panthers.
“They have some kids that have stepped up for them,” said Barron. “The Yoder kid (Bronson) has played all year for them, but he has become their big play guy. He’s a very good defender and he runs great deep routes and he knows how to score. He’s a great football player.
“NorthWood is a team of momentum. When they start feeling it – like the tipped pass when they played us – they get that, they get a call, they make some big plays. They play so hard. That’s a tribute to Nate (Andrews) and their coaching staff. Their players play very, very hard. They played harder than us the first time we played.”
NorthWood is certainly hot but the Rockies – rated as high as #1 in the course of the campaign – have showed renewed vigor with the playoffs.
“It starts with our quarterback (Jack Barron),” said Barron. “He’s played very well. It starts with that guy and the fruits of the labor of having a three year starter at quarterback is Friday night and this game. When you think about it, if (Jeremy) Splix starts we have 10 kids that started in the sectional final a year ago and I think that will affect how we prepare. I know how bad they want it. I know how bad a lot of people want it. I think we have the kids to do it. I hope we play well.”
The bottom line is that as cliché as it sounds, defense does win championships and the Rockie defensive unit is peaking at the right moment.
“They scored 33 points on us last time and that can’t happen,” said Barron. “Our kids know that. We’ve talked about it. It’s all what the kids believe. We are playing a team that has beaten us already and that’s motivation right there. Let’s get after it because we’re playing a team that’s beat us already.”
A dangerous NorthWood offense will likely have something to say about the outcome on Friday.
“Their quarterback (Trey Bilinski) is really good, I like him,” said Barron. “He throws a good football. He stands in there and he’ll get hit and he throws the deep pass really well and that’s probably my biggest concern is the chemistry between him and Yoder, and (Braxton) Linville, and (Bailey) Gessinger and (Drew) Minnich.
“They want to run the football and the two guys that can score on you at any time are Gessinger and Yoder. If you aren’t paying attention to them their gone. If you give Gessinger the edge he’s gone. If Yoder gets behind us he’s going to score. They are just that good.”
Still it’s some simple basics that will decide the game.
“It’s a chess match. They do a lot of really good things on both sides of the ball,” said Barron. “We need to be more physical than them. We can’t let the ball get over our heads, we can’t have stupid penalties and we can’t turn the ball over.”