As Plymouth students get back to “in person” class, the benefits trickle down to the various athletic teams.
“Getting the kids back into school and into a routine is huge,” said Plymouth head football coach John Barron. “Kids being in a normal routine is huge right now with everything else crumbling around them. We’ve already seen the difference in practice.”
A shutout on the road to open the season was not what Plymouth’s Rockies expected, but looking at the film of the loss to (No. 2 Class 4A) East Noble, there were far more positives than negatives.
“Aside from the scoreboard, we did an awful lot of very good things,” said Barron. “What stands out to me is upfront on both sides. I thought our offensive and defensive lines were outstanding. I would grade those guys out as an ‘A’.”
“We had so much inexperience around Jake (Reichard) and really Jake himself,” said Barron of his quarterback who was in just the second start of his high school career. “We didn’t have guys open a lot. Kids need to execute. Sometimes people are better than you and I think on the perimeter they were better than us.”
“I am very optimistic that we have learned and we’ve handled it the right way,” he said. “We went back to full pads this week and it wasn’t because we lost it’s because of what we saw. We feel like our kids need to play more, they need to tackle more, they need to hit more and get off physical coverage more. We are very optimistic about what our ceiling can be.”
The next obstacle in reaching that ceiling is a team that is the polar opposite of last week’s opponent.
“They are literally an offense in a phone booth,” said Barron. “It’s tight. Tight wings. The quarterback under center. We might play with a couple less defensive backs than we did last week.
“It’s a fistfight. They are coming right at you. They are trying to knock you back and double team you and maul you at the line of scrimmage and they have some guys who can run. They have guys who are very athletic and very explosive.”
After facing an offense that tried to spread a defense literally from sideline to sideline adjusting to one that will have 11 men “in the box” will be a very different task.
“We are going to try to meet their physicality,” said Barron. “We are not going to do anything that causes any confusion for our kids. They are in an even offense, we are going to even up with them on defense.
“They will throw the ball five or six times a game. Throwing the ball is not their mentality. It’s run, run, run, and run again.”
With a new coach and system, this season the Wildkats defensively have not shown much on film for Plymouth to dissect.
“They played a team last week that was an offense in a phone book just like them so we didn’t see much,” said Barron. “I think they will have an odd front and I think they are going to stunt. If I were them I would play press coverage and make us beat them. They are smart enough and well-coached enough to know that our quarterback runs the ball and we are trying to get the ball to (Ivan Winkle).”
“Even with that said our quarterback is still going to run the ball and we are still going to try to get the ball to (Winkle),” he said. “We just have to do it in a manner that will put those two in successful situations.
“Ivan will be all over the place and he will continue to be all over the place. We want to get him the ball in space. Jake just needs to stay calm and process the defense.”
Moving forward there are some simple keys to this Friday night.
“We have that first game under our belt,” said Barron. “We’ve been on the road so we know how to handle that. We just can’t turn the ball over four times. Very rarely have I coached a game where we turned the ball over that much and we won. Any coach can say that.
“We have to keep those guys in front of us. They are going to want to create one-on-one matchups. We have to be able to tackle in space.
“When we have the ball we have to have confidence. If we have confidence and continue to move the chains we will be in good shape.”
Game time is 7 p.m. at Kokomo.