PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth football team was ripe for the picking Friday night.
As ripe as the massive amounts of tasty blueberries being consumed just up the street during the annual Blueberry Festival.
Warsaw just did not seize the opportunity to knock off a ranked opponent and spoil the party-like atmosphere of all of the festivities in town.
The Class 4-A No. 7 Rockies simply did enough to turn back the Tigers 17-10 in the Northern Lakes Conference opener.
Plymouth improves to 2-1, although the one loss was a forfeit of a 30-3 victory over Bremen for the use of an ineligible player. The Rockies have now won eight of the last 10 meetings versus Warsaw and lead the series 51-44-2.
Warsaw drops to 1-2 with its second straight loss.
The Rockies also gave coach John Barron his 100th career coaching win. Barron, who is now 10-3 versus Warsaw, is 100-38 in his 13th season at Plymouth.
Warsaw had seemingly scored the potential tying touchdown with about 3:30 to go on a six-yard scamper by quarterback Michael Jensen on a fourth-and-two play. But, the Tigers were whistled for holding on the play. The next play saw a pass attempt to Jeremy David go incomplete in the end zone with a no call this time despite early contact on David by a Plymouth defender.
The Tigers had one final chance after stopping Plymouth. Warsaw took over at its own 19-yard line with just 31.9 seconds to play. After a pass interference call on the Rockies, the Tigers misfired on four straight pass attempts, just missing three long pass plays in the sequence as the final horn sounded.
“Every goal we have is still in front of us and still attainable,” said Warsaw coach Phil Jensen after a fiery postgame talk to his team. “It’s how bad do they want it. We’ll see on Monday. We have to get past this mentality of being satisfied with playing hard and being close.
“This team has greatness in it. I know they do. Our own self-inflicted wounds hurt us again tonight. The mistakes hurt us. You can’t turn the ball over in this offense and we did. That being said, we still had chances.”
“The thing is that we can’t take plays off and we have to play each play to the finish no matter what is going on out there. Each guy on this team has to do his job.”
The Rockies, who had scored 89 points in their first two games, took advantage of two Tiger turnovers to score 10 first-half points. Warsaw fumbled the ball away on its opening possession of the game. Plymouth went 54 yards on the ensuing drive, scoring on a one-yard keeper by quarterback Cole Filson for a 7-0 lead in the opening period.
The Tigers turned a Plymouth turnover in the second stanza into the tying score. Mason Faas recovered a fumble at the Plymouth 41. Four plays later, D’Andre Street made an amazing diving touchdown catch on a 19-yard toss from Michael Jensen to tie the game at 7-7 with 7:38 to play.
Plymouth took the lead back late in the opening half. The Rockies took over at the Tiger 34 after a fumbled punt return. Jacob Drudge then hit a 26-yard field goal to make it 10-7 at halftime.
Warsaw tied the game late in the third period. Senior star kicker Andrew Mevis, the man with a Division I leg, boomed home a 41-yard field goal to make it 10-10. The Rockies then went on an 80-yard drive that took over six minutes to take the lead. Colton Schuler raced in from six yards out to make it 17-10 with 9:00 to play.
“Plymouth is so well coached,” noted Jensen. “They have a good defense and had a great defensive plan tonight. They were begging us to run the ball. They did not want to give up the big play.”
Plymouth outgained Warsaw 305-247 in total yards. The Rockies ran for 264 yards on 51 carries, while Warsaw had 137 yards on 32 rushes.
Senior quarterback Jensen went 14-27 through the air for 110 yards. Senior D’Andre Street had six catches for 39 yards and senior Jeremy David five for 43. Junior Will McGarvey rushed for 108 yards on 21 carries.
Senior Tristen McMillen ran for 141 yards on 28 carries to lead the Plymouth offense. Sophomore Filson was 4-8 passing or 41 yards.
Plymouth was big on third downs, converting 7-13. The Tigers were just 3-12 on third downs.
Junior Zach Riley had an interception for the Tigers. Top tacklers for Warsaw were Faas, Rob Sullivan, Dylan Hernandez and AJ Villarreal.
Warsaw hosts Memorial and Plymouth plays at Northridge in NLC action next Friday night. Memorial dropped to 1-2 with a 35-14 loss to Goshen and Northridge went to 0-3 with a 21-20 double-overtime loss at Wawasee in NLC contests Friday night.