“We battled back last week and at one point were in position to take the lead, or at least tie,” said Plymouth coach John Barron. “That’s been the emphasis this week so far, as in ‘Let’s get back on track’ mentally. It seems like it was more than a loss because it was at the end heading to the second season, but our guys are focused and ready to go.”
“What we want our kids to take from both our losses is that we have to finish,” said Barron. “We put ourselves in a position to be the sole owner of the (conference) trophy last week and didn’t get it done. Against East Noble, we lost the lead with 1:18 left and came right back down and got to the two-yard line and couldn’t finish that drive. We have a talented team. We have to be mentally engaged all the time. We can’t let our guard down.”
For Plymouth and their fellow NLC members, the feel of a playoff game every week can also have its effect.
“When you play the schedule we play it can chew you up,” said Barron. “The NLC chews you up. There are no easy games. The NLC is rough and to own a piece of that title makes me proud of our players and our coaches.”
This week comes another team that can run the football in Kankakee Valley, the winners of two in a row, including a 42-0 shut out of Munster a week ago.
“The two teams that have had the most success against us had really good running quarterbacks,” said Barron. “I thought we defended the run really well against Warsaw. I thought we defended the run really well against Northridge.”
“Kankakee Valley is a team that has a similar offense to what we do except they have a tight end in the game all of the time,” said Barron. “They are in a pistol so that means the running back is behind the quarterback.”
“When I turn on the film they look well-coached,” he said. “The games we’ve watched they’ve gotten better. They look like they’re getting a little momentum. Their running back runs really hard. Watching him on film I thought he was a 215-pound guy but he’s listed at 170. The quarterback can run and he can throw. Defensively they get after you.”
Getting after the Kougars defensively is the important thing to stay alive for week two of the playoff round.
“The big thing is that you have to be set up properly,” said Barron. “They have some sets that pose a problem for us. We know our strengths so we know how to defend certain teams a certain way. We’ve got to be more aggressive.”
“We have some guys healthier. We’ve been getting solid and consistent play out of our linebackers,” he said. “We have to get our safeties more involved in the run game. Last week it took us a little while to adjust to that. With the players (NorthWood) had, they were able to exploit that pretty quickly.”
Even with an offense that can light up the scoreboard, Plymouth still doesn’t want to get into a shootout.
“We’ve given up too many points,” said Barron. “We are creating too many penalties. We just have to play smarter. Most of our penalties are aggressive penalties and you can take one or two of those, but not six.”
“The key is our defense,” he said. “Defense does win championships. There are some things that we are doing that I hope will help us.”