After taking his fair share of bumps and bruises as a sophomore, Plymouth South's Dylan Oxsen emerged as one of the state's best running backs last fall, collecting 40 touchdowns to lead all of Eastern Mass. Oxsen's explosive play carried the Panthers to their first Atlantic Coast title and the school's first playoff berth. Plymouth South fell to Natick in the state semifinals, 38-33, with Oxsen rushing for 317 yards and all five Panther touchdowns.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Oxsen picked up right where he left off in his senior campaign, having collected 22 of Plymouth South's 28 touchdowns on the season. In his last two games - a 35-7 win over Sharon and a 21-7 win over Dartmouth - Oxsen has notched 494 yards and seven touchdowns on 50 carries, sending the Panthers (7-1) to the Division 3 Southeast title game where they will play their rivals, Plymouth North.
In this week's installment of First & 10, the senior back talks about the upcoming game against North, his volunteerism, and his favorite fishing spot.
What are your overall thoughts on how this season has gone for you and Plymouth South?
We had a very, very strong class [last year]. My class, the senior class, weíve always played together as youth. My freshman year we were the first freshman team at Plymouth South to go undefeated. Weíve always been this really good band of brothers.
We had a really good year last year. A lot of the starters were seniors, so we were very skeptical about this year because we donít have at that many juniors. We have a very small team, so people have been skeptical about how weíd do this year. But coming of last year, coming off a great ACL win, first time in South history, we came back, won it again, and now weíre chasing [a chance] to go to Gillette.
Winning Southís first ACL title last year, did that change the expectations that you guys had for yourselves this year?
It definitely did. Honestly it was a great feeling, especially on the way we won it Ė the fact that we won it against Nauset. But this year, we beat Falmouth to secure the ACL title, but I think one reason why we werenít so happy about it was the way we played. Falmouth was the worst team in the league and we only beat them 14-0. We werenít that happy about the way we played, but we just won the ACL title and we were still down. We want more. We werenít satisfied with just the ACL title again this year.
You and the guys are squaring up against Plymouth North for the second time this season. What are some of the pros and cons of having to play a rival for a second time?
When you play teams over and over again especially Plymouth North Ė who we play every year, who is our rival Ė they know so much about you. They know what we do, we know what they do. We know the kids on the team, they know us. You have to play really good in order to win the game because you canít mistakes. We know their weaknesses and they know ours. Both teams just know each other very well, and it has to be a hard-nosed game. Everyone is pumped up. Thereís supposed to be thousands of people at this game. Itís going to be crazy. We just canít make mistakes.
Very few rival schools come from the same town. Is there a pretty great dislike between Plymouth North and Plymouth South?
Yeah [laughs]. But we have some people from Plymouth North who are on the team. We have one Bryant [University] commit [left tackle/nose guard Shaun Duncombe] who grew up with almost every single kid on North, who didnít even come to South until is freshman year. Our wide receiver [Rick Barnhardt], who began the season at quarterback, he played for Plymouth North his freshman year.
We know a lot of them, and maybe sometimes off the field when itís not football season, yeah, weíre friends, but football season, on the field, thatís all over.
No matter what happens this weekend, you guys have to play Plymouth North again on Thanksgiving, meaning over a quarter of your schedule this season will have been games against North. Do you think that takes away from the traditional Thanksgiving matchup?
It 100-percent takes away from Thanksgiving. Letís just say we beat North. Then we play the winner of Oliver Ames versus Stoughton. Now say we win that game. Coach [Scott Fry] has already told us that if we win that Oliver Ames-Stoughton game, we will not put the starters in. So now what is Thanksgiving worth? Now the people who come down with their family to watch the annual Thanksgiving Day game are watching North varsity against South junior varsity, if thatís what ends up happening.
You had 40 touchdowns last year as a junior. What had you envisioned for your senior season coming off such an impressive junior campaign?
I obviously didnít want it to be just a one-year thing. My junior year I came by as a bit of a surprise; nobody knew who I was. I didnít do much my sophomore year. It was a little bit easier to get away with [scoring that many touchdowns]. Now everyone who has played us has been there, theyíve seen me, they know who I am. Itís a lot harder to get away with it. Teams prepare for me now.
Has that made you a better player?
Yeah, it makes me a better person, but it also has to make the team better because we canít just give the ball to me. We have to be a more well-rounded team. We have to spread out the wealth. We have to be able to throw and run it with our other running backs. Not only does it help me as a person but it has to help the team. We have to be a good team all around now that teams are looking at me.
You had over 300 rushing yards and five touchdowns in last yearís semifinals loss to Natick. What did you take away from that game?
If I were a senior, I probably would have been pretty bummed. All I could really do was come out this year and try to make it there again and prove that [last year] wasnít just a one-time thing. I think Iíve done that this year. Iíve done well in the playoffs, we keep advancing, and as long as we make it to the state championship, maybe get a ring, a loss against Natick my junior year will be overlooked.
Letís switch to some off the field topics. What do you do with your free time?
I do like video games a lot. Iím a big Call of Duty guy. I like being outdoors, so I like hiking, fishing. I fish a lot. And it sounds kind of soft, but volunteering at an animal shelter. I love animals.
Some kids your age donít really see the merit in volunteering. What makes you go out and volunteer?
I used to do it before I was in National Honor Society, so it wasnít mandatory. But now Iím in NHS, so I do need community service hours. Doing what I do doesnít even feel like community service to me because I like doing it. Now I actually do it for hours.
Whereís your favorite fishing spot?
Well, thereís this one spot where I donít see any small bass. Everything you reel in is a monster. I donít really know where it is. Itís a weird path in the middle of the woods. You take your car down there, so I really couldnít even tell you the name of it.
Is it on the South Shore?
Yeah, itís actually somewhat near Plymouth South. Itís somewhere on Beaver Dam [Road].
If you had family coming into town, whereís the one place in Plymouth youíre taking them to eat?
Iíd probably go to Red Robin. Iím a big burger guy, I donít like anything fancy, so Iíd probably go with the bacon cheeseburger.
Do you play any other sports at Plymouth South?
Iím a wrestler, and I use to play lacrosse, but I figured that track would be better for football. They like to see the times and everything, so I switched to track.
What do you run?
I run the 100-meter. Everybody asks me for my time but I really donít remember [laughs], but I did place second in the Division I sectionals.
(Editorís note: Oxsen finished second at the 2013 MIAA Eastern Division 1 Outdoor Championships with a time of 11.28 seconds. His best time was 11.00 at the 2013 Haverhill Invitational)
Do you have any college plans?
Iím not exactly sure yet. Iím getting a lot of interest from places. Bryant is definitely a possibility. Iím just getting looked at by a lot of places.
Whatís the end result youíre hoping for?
Iím trying to go DI-AA. Iím not trying to go to Boston College. Iím trying to go somewhere I can play, maybe start my junior or senior year. Iím not looking for a place where I would start right away, thatís not mandatory. If I can go somewhere DI-AA and play as soon as I can, Iíd love to play, but I definitely want to play at a competitive level. If I could even get into a competitive DII, it all depends. Scholarships and all that are a big factor.
If you play at college are you looking to stay at running back? Or are you willing to play somewhere else?
If not a running back, I could be, I donít know, a slot receiver like Wes Welker or something. I want to be able to touch the ball. I play defense on our team, but I donít want to play that in college.
Weíll finish it up with this: Plymouth South is two wins away from an appearance in the Division 3 title game. What would making it to Gillette mean to you?
It would just prove that a lot of the hard work has paid off. My freshman and sophomore year, Plymouth South was never on the map. No one knew about Plymouth South. To be on Top-25s and everything and just making a name for ourselves these last two years while we were on the team, itís just nice to have.
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