Plymouth pitches defensive shutout in 7-2 win over Southside

Published 12:11 am Saturday, December 10, 2016

PLYMOUTH — Just about everyone figured that Friday’s 1-A eastern regional championship game between Plymouth and Southside would come down to whichever team made one more play or one less mistake. That’s exactly what happened as the Vikings narrowly escaped, 7-2, to move on to the state championship against Murphy next week.

Southside started the second quarter set to punt on a fourth-and-6. The Seahawks were without senior lineman Walker Main, who typically handles the long-snapping duties. Ta’Quan White recovered a bad snap just 16 yards from the end zone. Elijah Carmack broke through tackles on the next play to score the game’s only touchdown.

“Walker was really, really sick. It was an unfortunate thing,” Southside coach Jeff Carrow said. “Walker is a heck of a ball player. I couldn’t be more proud of him. He’s helped us win games all year long. He’s a senior. He’s one of those special guys.

“But this has nothing to do with Walker. It’s a whole team thing.”

Plymouth coach Robert Cody added, “That game right there could have gone either way. We couldn’t move the ball on them and they couldn’t move the ball on us.”

It gave the homestanding Vikings a 7-0 lead just 16 seconds into the second. Try as they did throughout the rest of the game, the Seahawks’ offense couldn’t put any points on the board.

“We just had a hard time with some of their (defensive) linemen and staying on blocks,” Carrow said. “They’re a great team. They deserve it.”

Southside’s only points of the game came on a safety in the third quarter. A low snap rolled right between the legs of Plymouth punter Jose Castenada. He kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone to prevent the converging Seahawks coverage team from scooping it up and scoring.

“(Castenada) had a smart move on his part. The kickoff after that was a big play. It went really far,” Cody said of the heads-up play by his punter, which he wished he could take credit for.

It cut Southside’s deficit to five, 7-2, with 7:31 left in the third period. The Seahawks were buzzing, likely feeling that a go-ahead touchdown could very well punch their ticket to Chapel Hill.

On the ensuing offensive possession, the Seahawks put together what was their best drive to that point. They marched down the field thanks to back-to-back fourth-down conversions.

The officials, who had been conservative throughout the game, kept their flags tucked on what looked like defensive pass interference on third-and-9. Southside couldn’t get a third consecutive fourth-down conversion as Marshall Medlock’s pass went off the fingertips of tight end Hunter Tyler.

The clock was working against the Seahawks in the fourth quarter. Kyle Hill ripped off a 31-yard run into Plymouth territory to give the visitors a much-needed spark. Medlock followed up by finding Demetrius Ebron, who brought Southside down to the 35.

Zikajah Crawford moved the chains and got the Seahawks to the 24, but they turned it over on downs shortly after. The Vikings got the ball back at their 26, leading by five and with 6:15 left.

On third-and-5, Cody Modlin leveled the ball carrier to bring about a fourth-and-13 scenario for the defending state champions.

Southside ended up getting two more chances to drive down the field, but Plymouth got to Medlock time and again.

Like it has so many times this season, Southside’s defense played almost lights out to keep things tight. Following the second-quarter touchdown, Joe Myers laid a thunderous hit on Ronald Wilkins to spark what turned into a three-and-out forced by the Seahawks.

He had an interception late in the second. The defense, as a unit, had a great outing, but Plymouth got one more play to go its way.

“Same as all year long,” Carrow said. “They stepped up and played ball.”

Carrow brought the team together right after the game. Speaking directly to the seniors, who were understandably upset, Carrow reminded them that they won just three games as freshmen. He told them that back-to-back regional-championship appearances is something to take pride in.

“I’m proud of these guys — especially the seniors. We’ve come a long way,” he said. “We came up short tonight. … I can’t say enough about the team and how much adversity they overcame this year. I truly love this team and I’m proud of these guys.”