PLYMOUTH – Historically it has always been a big game in terms of NLC standings and in the playoffs and this year is more of the same as Plymouth will travel to Andrews Field in Nappanee to renew its rivalry with NorthWood with a 7 p.m. kickoff.
“They’ve been one of the smallest schools in our conference but it doesn’t matter what size school is playing NorthWood in football, they put fear in you and now with Nate (Andrews) coaching there, he is a tremendous coach — full of energy and his kids play like him,” said Plymouth coach John Barron. “He was a holy terror to try and defend against and now to coach against.”
Last year’s state runners up come in with a 5-3 record after a very tough loss a week ago to Warsaw. The Panthers have a wealth of weapons that have to be accounted for.
“They are just so explosive,” said Barron. “They can go 70 yards in the blink of an eye – and they’ve got three or four guys who can go 70 yards in the blink of an eye. They motion and shift and try to out number you on the perimeter and they have typical NorthWood kids. They have kids that are fast and they know the game. You can see that they understand the game of football.”
“They can get behind you with the pass but they are a running team; different style than us. We’ve been very good against that but this is a completely different animal.”
Defensively the Panthers are just as troublesome and talented.
“They are going to stunt,” said Barron. “They are going to line up in an odd front then shift to an even front. Their nose guard (William Ingle) has been one of the most dominating players in the NLC. He’s been there for three years, and three years ago we couldn’t block him; last year we couldn’t block him. Hopefully we figure out a way to do it this year. He will be a handful.”
However with fall break on the horizon the biggest problem may be internal.
“We’re just trying to stay focused. Fall break is becoming like spring break where you don’t get a lot done the week before. I think we can defend against NorthWood and I think we can score points against NorthWood but we need to get our kids focused on playing the game.”
“Our linebackers can’t get caught up in the jet motion and shifts,” said Barron. “They play the game pretty quickly. They can expose your defense if they can get to the edge. If we can’t set an edge we could have some trouble. We have to get those guys out of bounds. Our safeties are going to have to tackle in space.”
“We have to be able to establish a running game. We have to execute. It’s focusing on your base plays and understanding that this is a big game for us.”