DSC_0619PLYMOUTH – It took a shot in the arm from sophomore quarterback Cole Filson but Plymouth’s Rockies revived in the second half to resurrect their offense and survive for a 19-17 NLC win over Elkhart Memorial.


It was a night once again steeped in tragedy as just before game time the Rockies learned of the death of a classmate and fellow athlete, cross country runner Rylan Clark.


“We told our players as a team of the tragedy and simply told them if you can play, play, if you can’t you can’t,” said Rockie head coach John Barron. “I can’t imagine being a teenager and going through what these kids have gone through in the past 12 months. To say I’m proud of them isn’t justice to the way they fought back in the second half. We were down 17 points, we hadn’t done anything in the first half – I’m just really proud of them.”


Another sluggish first half saw the Rockies dominated on both sides of the ball by a Memorial team that came out inspired and took advantage of a Plymouth fumble to put a field goal on the board almost immediately. By the end of the half they would dominate time of possession, and the scoreboard holding a 17-0 lead at half.


Then things became completely different. It started with an inspired defense they forced a quick three and out and the Rockies committing to the running game to put six on the board.


“We got after it defensively,” said Barron of the transformation. “We tightened up our corners. We talked to (the linebackers) about leverage and just playing smart. I just told them at halftime you have to have some fun. This has to be fun. We’re going to feel the pain after the game no matter what happens. Let’s just try to enjoy this time. You made the decision to play let’s have some fun.


“I think they learned so much about themselves in those last 24 minutes, maybe more than they’ll learn again the rest of their lives.”


It also saw the emergence of a supremely confident Filson reading the option and making plays to spur the defense. The Rockies had just 68 yards on the ground in the first half. Filson alone had 109 in the second.


“We are trying to find a rhythm, we had an early fumble and we turned it over five times last week,” said Barron. “We have to find a quarterback we can have rhythm with. We gave (Ryan) Johnson two or three series, we gave Benji (Nixon) a series with a new little package we put in to get the ball in his hands and not rely on somebody else to figure out how to do it and that got stalled.”


An offensive first half that was uninspired to say the least revived on the legs of Filson, and fullback Tristan McMillen who had just two touches in the first half and ended the game with 46 yards on 12 carries and two touchdown runs.


“We’re really good up front, we have a steady fullback and guys on the perimeter that can make plays,” said Barron. “I was proud of Cole, he hung in there it got really tight at the end and he made some good plays and some good reads and I think (Coach) Mike (Kershner) called a good game.”


“Mike decided we’re going to run triple (option) until they stop it,” said Barron, “We were executing our blocking schemes up front properly we just needed to read it correctly. You saw that as Cole would pull it and pitch it and we got into a rhythm.”


Still trailing 17-13, the Rockies saw a promising drive stall at the 26, forcing them to give the ball back to Elkhart with four minutes to play. The defense rose to the occasion, getting a crucial stop and Colten Schuler took it in for the game winner.


A strange stat – the Rockies no passing yards on the night.


“There’s two ways to look at that,” said Barron. “If you can throw the ball some it takes the pressure off your running game. But we had thrown two picks in the first half. We weren’t reading the routes at all. I think we just decided that we needed to let the offensive line win the game for us and they did that. They won the game for us.”


That offensive line will be tested again next week with a home game against Wawasee (3-2). The Rockies are now 3-2.


Score by Quarters

Plymouth 0 0 13 6 – 19

Elk. Mem 3 14 0 0 – 17


Scoring Summary

First Quarter

EM – FG Austin Arbaugh 24 Yd.


Second Quarter

EM – TD David Tillman 25 Yd Pass From Nathan Williams (Austin Arbaugh Kick)

EM – TD Corieon Owens 1 Yd Run (Austin Arbaugh Kick)


Third Quarter

P – TD Tristen McMillen 1 Yd Run (Jeremy Drudge Kick)

P – TD Tristen McMillen 22 Yd Run (Failed Two-Point Conversion)


Fourth Quarter

P – TD Colten Schuler 9 Yd Run (Failed Two-Point Conversion)


Rushing – (Plymouth 48-267) Filson 13-109, D. Johnson 8-49, McMillen 12-46 2 TD, B. Nixon 3-25. (Elk. Mem. 36-89) Brownlee 16-35, Owens 9-30 TD, Williams 9-25.


Passing – Filson 0-2, D. Johnson 0-4 2INT., Williams 14-25, 163 TD, INT.


Receiving – N. Grose 6-52, Tillman 2-36 TD.


Tackles – N. Pesak, 9.