Plymouth South leans on defense to beat Stoughton, advance to Division 3 Super Bowl

7.2.2814874916_Sports_23d3football Plymouth South defensive back Anthony Schena (44) celebrates intercepting a pass with time running out as Jovani Pires (36) sits dejectedly on the field during the MIAA Division 3 Football Semi-Final game at Marciano Stadium in Brockton, Mass., Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 Plymouth South defeated Stoughton 14-12 and moves on to the Super Bowl. (Robert E. Klein for the Boston Globe)
Plymouth South defensive back Anthony Schena (44) celebrated after intercepting a pass as time ran out of Friday’s playoff game against Stoughton. Plymouth South will advance to the Division 3 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium. (Robert E. Klein / For the Boston Globe)
The Boston Globe

BROCKTON — Plymouth South coach Scott Fry knows senior running back Dylan Oxsen gets most of the publicity surrounding his No. 9 Panthers.

But in Friday night’s Division 3 state semifinal, it was the defense that stole the show and earned Plymouth South a trip to the Super Bowl.

The Panthers held No. 12 Stoughton scoreless in the second half and Oxsen racked up 195 yards rushing and two scores as Plymouth South squeaked past the Black Knights, 14-12, at Rocky Marciano Stadium.

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Plymouth South plays the winner of Saturday’s semifinal matchup between No. 10 Melrose and No. 4 Tewksbury in the Division 3 Super Bowl on Dec. 7 at Gillette Stadium.

The Panther (9-1) defense held Stoughton (9-2) to 48 yards in the second half, including only three first downs while forcing four punts and two turnovers.

The Black Knights had just 213 total yards for the game.

“Our defense has really played well all year long” Fry said, “and the kids that step up all year continue to step up for us.”

On Friday, it was senior Anthony Schena who came up with the big play.

The Panthers clung to a 2-point lead with 34 seconds left with Stoughton driving the ball — its only effective drive of the second half — to the Plymouth South 25-yard line looking for the end zone or to try and set up a potential game-winning field goal attempt.

That was until Schena picked off Jake Gibb’s pass intended for senior Jovani Pines down the left sideline to seal the win.

“I consider our defense as one of the best in the state,” Oxsen said. “They did exactly what they had to do, make the big plays in the end, and that’s what we did.”

Plymouth South led by 2 with 6:30 to go and the ball at its own 34. The Panthers fed Oxsen on all 11 plays on the drive, churning out 36 yards, three first downs, and Stoughton’s final four timeouts.

The drive took 4:26 off the clock before the Panthers turned it over on downs at the Black Knights’ 30 to set up Stoughton’s final drive.

Oxsen had only 29 yards on 10 carries in the second half prior to the final drive. He had 130 yards on 19 carries in the first half.

The Panthers jumped out to a 14-0 lead with 4:07 to go in the second on a pair of rushing touchdowns by Oxsen. That’s when Stoughton’s offense finally kicked into gear. Sophomore Jake Gibb hit senior Lennox Green for a 15-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-6 with 1:20 left in the second quarter after the PAT was blocked.

Then, the Black Knights recovered a short kickoff near midfield and drove the ball to the Plymouth South 34 before Green coughed it up at the 45 with 50 seconds left in the half.

Oxsen fumbled four plays later to give it right back, and Stoughton junior Joseph Girolamo took a screen pass from Gibb 38 yards for a score. The Black Knights’ 2-point rush attempt was stopped to give the Panthers a 14-12 lead at the half.