PLYMOUTH - It might have been senior day in Plymouth, but Plymouth South's Blaine Theisen tried his best to make it sophomore day, leading the Panthers to a 17-7 win over cross-town rival Plymouth North in the 14th Battle of the Rock.
The Blue Eagles (7-4) needed a win to stay alive in the Atlantic Coast League race, but they ran into Theisen, who took 12 carries for 166 yards and two touchdowns. The Panthers running back tied the game with a 20-yard scamper in the second, and then sealed the win, sprinting 80 yards down the sideline in the fourth quarter.
"He's unbelievable - the kid is an athlete," said senior quarterback Derrick Duquette. "I'll say it: He was the MVP of this game."
North had the ball for eight minutes on its first drive, which covered 62 yards in 15 plays and ended with an 11-yard TD run by freshman fullback Matt Walsh. The majority of the work was done by senior Tom Carr, whose shifty running (18 carries, 54 yards) powered the Blue Eagles.
South had only two rushes on its first two drives. After punts by both teams, the Panthers changed their plan.
Duquette hit Mike Creed for 25 yards on the left sideline, putting the team at midfield. Theisen then took a pitch to the right, only a shoestring tackle keeping him from the end zone.
On the next play, there was no tackle. Theisen, who carried six times for 57 yards on the drive, beat the defenders to the corner and dived at the pylon for the 20-yard score.
After a three-and-out by North, South got the ball back at its 46. Duquette, finding himself with plenty of time, hit Kyle Rowe deep for 38 yards, putting the Panthers at the 25 with 17 seconds left. After South moved it to the 14 with two seconds left, coach Scott Fry sent kicker Luke Osberg out for the try. The ball squeaked over the bar for a 31-yard field goal, and South went into halftime up, 10-7.
"That was huge to be up at the break," Fry said, though he joked about Osberg's number (53) and size. "It wasn't the prettiest kick. I always used to swear I would never have a kicker out there with a number in the 50s."
In the second half, North switched to Walsh pounding the ball inside, but got little.
The biggest momentum swing came at the start of the fourth quarter. After a drive stalled for North, quarterback/punter Joe Flynn pinned the Panthers at their 6 with a 57-yard boot. The Blue Eagles forced a three-and-out and got the ball at South's 40 with 6:44 left. Only a minute later, they punted, sending the ball into the end zone for a touchback.
"I thought [the stand] was the biggest point of the game," Fry said. "Our defense played fantastic."
On the next play, Theisen took the ball down his home sideline, barely staying inbounds for an 80-yard touchdown.
Fry said he was trying to keep his team off the field when Theisen ran by.
"I think I might have passed him down the sideline," he laughed.
The running back thought it was close, too.
"I was lucky," said Theisen, thinking he had stepped out, but glad he hadn't.