Plymouth visits St. Paul in battle of unbeaten teams

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Sep 20, 2019 at 5:01 AM

NORWALK — Longtime Plymouth coach Mark Genders challenges his team to be better than the previous week.

But after only getting in a half of football last week in a 32-0 win over Buckeye Central — called at halftime because of lightning — the Big Red (3-0) need to really take up that challenge for what awaits them on Saturday.

“We didn’t quite play the type of football mentally and physically that we have been doing all summer,” Genders said of last Friday’s win. “So getting back to that level is our biggest challenge.”

In Saturday’s 7 p.m. Firelands Conference opener at Division VII No. 13-ranked St. Paul (3-0), the visiting Big Red will be facing a Flyer team that has outscored their three opponents by a 125-0 margin.

“This year you can tell that they have an experienced group in key areas,” Genders said of St. Paul. “Their quickness, especially with their defensive front, is impressive.”

But on the other side of the field, St. Paul coach John Livengood said Plymouth’s sheer size jumps off the screen.

“There are not a lot of teams that have tackles who weigh 330 and 375 pounds, and a pair of guards that weigh 250 pounds,” Livengood said of Plymouth. “Not a lot of high school teams, much less small high schools, that have that kind of size — so that is really the first thing that really jumps out at you.”

“It’s a difficult offense to defend and keep from gaining three or four yards every down,” he added. “The thing that makes them a bit more dynamic and different this year is they are throwing the ball more.”

Not only are the Big Red a viable passing threat in 2019, but quarterback Walker Elliott has been extremely accurate. Through two-plus games, he is 14-of-17 passing for 161 yards and three touchdowns. Elliott has also ran the ball 18 times for 150 yards and 3 TDs on the ground. 
“The play of Elliott at QB with his speed and getting him to the edge and perimeter makes them dangerous,” Livengood said. “When plays break down, he is able to turn what could be a sack or incomplete pass into a 30-yard run. He’s a very good athlete that does a lot of things for them.”

This is Plymouth’s third full season running the double-wing offense — which features two tight ends, two wing backs, a fullback and QB in the backfield. There are no line splits, which allows the interior line to double team and down block opposing defenses.

Plymouth is averaging 41.3 points per game in 10 quarters of game action. Running back Lukas Montgomery has 214 yards and 4 TDs on 33 rushes, while Josh Stevens adds 178 yards and three scores on 20 attempts.

As a whole, Plymouth has 118 rush attempts for 809 yards and 16 TDs in 10 quarters.

“They do what they do offensively, which is come out and pound the ball,” Livengood said. “They want to chew up clock and make it tough to get them off the field. They have not punted this year.

“That’s quite an accomplishment through three games — to not have punt team on the field one time,” he added.

Meanwhile, Genders said the balanced rushing attack of the Flyers will present problems for a Big Red defense that has allowed just 30 points thus far.

St. Paul has ran 141 times for 934 yards and 12 TDs in its own right, with Cam Caizzo rushing for 463 yards and 5 TDs on just 62 attempts. Justin Butler adds 185 yards and 5 TDs on 28 carries.

“Their balance in the offensive backfield with Caizzo and Butler is really solid,” Genders said. “I think in the over 50 times we have seen Caizzo run the football, I don't think he has had a negative play yet. If Butler gets to the perimeter, he is gone. And Gavin Moffit jumps out at you on their front … he is one heck of a lineman.

“In addition, our special teams play will have to be equally matched — for they are excellent in this area,” he added. “Caizzo and Moffit have to be accounted for on special teams. They are extremely aggressive and are always looking to make the play that can change a game.”

Before the season started, Livengood felt Plymouth’s experience could lead to the fast start that has materialized so far.

“They are big, physical and always play good defense,” he said. “They are a well-coached team. I think back to preseason, and this is one of those teams I looked at in terms of returning starters as being one of the top teams in the conference coming into the year — and they’ve lived up to that.

“No matter how you break it down, their size makes them a tough matchup,” Livengood added. “They have the personnel for what they want to do.”

Livengood said his team made good progress in a 21-0 win at Tiffin Calvert last week.

“We played a very physical team last week, and I liked how our kids were able to respond to that challenge,” he said. “To keep Calvert contained in that style of offense, it was a tall task — and I thought our kids did a nice job with that. We’re making steps in the right direction, but there is a lot of room for improvement.”

Genders believes his team is starting to come together and play for each other.

“As a team we are off to a great start in the classroom also, and those two things are the most important areas on our team,” he said. “Each player on this team, like every week, will have to play at their highest level on Saturday.”

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