You have to admit, when High School post-season play begins, anything is possible. Well by games end in the first round of the football Sectionals for Plymouth and South Bend Washington, it was unbelievable! A 40 yard field goal by SB Washington kicker and soccer player, Cesear Mercado hit the crossbar of the field goal posts and bounced over with no time left on the clock to give the Panthers a 31-29 win ending the Rockies season at 6 wins-4 losses.
“This one is going to hurt for a while. I thought our kids played their hearts out in the second half. We thought we had a shot of winning this one. If you were to ask me if I would take odds of our opponent trying to win the ballgame with a 40 yard field goal attempt….I would of taken those odds. The Panther kicker simply made a clutch kick. 98% of the time the kids don’t make it. But that’s Sectional High School football. You never know what to expect.”, said Head Coach John Barron.
One rotation of the football keeps the Rockies from playing next week. That game winning drive itself by SB Washington was lethargic at best, in the final 3 minutes. The passing predominate Panthers stuck to their running game with Division I potential David Perkins for four of the seven plays of that final drive. A penalty and a Rockie defensive play forced SB Washington to the P30 yard line.
“I really thought when Washington’s Coaching staff was still throwing the football with under three minutes, I began to think our guys needed just one big stop outside the 25 to give us a chance. It was obvious the way Washington was killing the clock they wanted no part of our offense on the field. We did the job defensively. It simply didn’t work the way we had hoped it would of.”, added Barron.
South Bend Washington flexed their offensive balance all game long, showcasing Perkins and two other Division I prospects Darius Hardin and Gehrig Dieter. The Panthers finished with 368 total yards of offense, surprisingly 267 rushing and only 101 via the air.
“Our defense really kept us in the ballgame. That Perkins kid is the real deal. I don’t like tossing the Division I words around when associating a player to that kind of potential. But Perkins is definitely a prospect. I felt Daulton VanDusen, Damon Howe, Jon Ruff and our secondary played very, very well. But it was a team effort by our kids. We kept one of their leading WR-Dieter to two catches, yea one of them led to their first touchdown but he was a none factor from that point on. We forced two key turnovers. We asked a lot from them and they responded.”, said Barron.
Plymouth never strayed from their ground game, mustering 330 yards total, 316 rushing. Senior running-back Brock Smith finished with 121 yards rushing on 25 carries. Sophmore Sam Stevens provided a spark in the second half with 181 yards on the ground on 25 carries by games end. Smith scored once, Stevens got the hat trick (3).
“Our coaching staff knew our game plan to run the football would be the best plan by the third and fourth quarters. We started seeing a lot South Bend players with hands on the their hips and huffing and puffing more in their huddle. After the Hardin score in the fourth quarter, I challenged our group to not go down without a fight. We got it tied and scored that two point conversion without any reservation and set ourselves up for the win. That’s all we could ask for!”, said Barron.
The Rockies finished the season 6-4. Senior Brock Smith finishes 21 points shy of reaching a single season scoring record. He finished with 18 touchdowns, 2/3 field goals, 26/30 pat’s, all for 142 points.
Senior Houston Hodges finishes his season going 15/35 (43%) passing…211 yards…4 interceptions….2 touchdowns. 92 carries for 590 yards rushing with 6 touchdowns.
Damon Howe ends the season being the Rockies leading tackler with 38 tackles and 41 assists. 9 Tackle for Losses-13 yards. 2 Sacks- 7 yards. 1 fumble recovery.
“I love this senior class. They had to overcome a lot of storylines. Starting with the high expectations that was placed on them following 2 consecutive unbeaten seasons. It’s no easy task to establish an identity and that’s what they had to do and did. We persevered the injuries by playoff time. Those who were injured played leadership roles when asked. We really should of lost only one game this season. That was against Concord. The other two losses we should of won. So when I evaluate this season, I feel not only did we do better than expected, we showed heart in every game. That’s Rockies football.”, added Barron.