The Plymouth South football team advanced to the second round of the Division 2 South playoffs.
PLYMOUTH – Sitting at 4-4, with one playoff win already under its belt and just one win away from playing for a chance to go to Gillette Stadium, the Plymouth South football team felt good about its chances. But a dispiriting 26-6 playoff loss to Dighton-Rehoboth ended those dreams, and the Panthers finished the season on a three-game losing streak after suffering a 27-0 Thanksgiving defeat to Plymouth North.
"Our biggest problem [this season] was that we turned the ball over too many times and we didn’t create enough turnovers," Head Coach Scott Fry said. "It even happened on Thanksgiving when we turned the ball over four times."
A brutal schedule didn’t help. The Panthers twice met D-R and also played Scituate, meaning three of their 11 games were against eventual Super Bowl competitors.
Despite a rash of injuries, including the loss of starting junior quarterback Keven Paul, the Panthers played some of their best games against top-flight competition. They battled D-R hard in a 10-6 loss in the first meeting between the schools, and they played outstanding football for the first half before faltering in a 28-7 loss to Scituate.
"The first loss to D-R could have gone either way, and we probably played a first half that was better than anybody else has against Scituate," Fry said. "We also lost a really close game to Hanover on the final play."
The season highlight came in their first playoff game when they traveled to North Quincy and pulled off a 22-16 win two weeks after losing to the same team, 28-7. "The fact that we lost to them and then beat them on the road was a real positive," Fry said.
The Panthers will graduate 13 seniors, including six starters. Among them are Brendan Shortall and Matt Harrington, key performers on both sides of the ball. On offense, the duo carried much of the load on the ground, while anchoring the defense from the linebacker position. Harrington led the way in their playoff win with 97 yards on 17 carries, while Shortall added 82 yards on 21 attempts.
Darius Andrews, a running back and defensive back, and lineman Tristan Reynolds also went both ways. Andrews turned in one of the game’s biggest plays in the win over North Quincy, taking a short pass and rambling 76 yards for a touchdown.
The Panthers are also graduating defensive end Max MacPhail, tackle and center Mike Taraska, lineman Joe McGonagle and kicker Emma Sampson.
Sophomore quarterback Hunter Dean stepped in when Paul was injured and turned in some solid performances. In the North Quincy game, he was 7-for-7 for 128 yards and two touchdowns, and he also caught a pass on a flea-flicker from junior Nick Siegelmen for another score.
With Paul and Dean both returning next season, there figures to be a battle at the quarterback position. "Whatever happens there, we’ll find a way to have both of them on the field," Fry said.
The Panthers will also return juniors Hunter Budrow and Cillian Davis (both wide receivers and defensive backs), and junior linemen Anthony Luongo, Nick Keding and James Kernan as they hope to reverse a trend that has seen them finish 4-7 in two straight years.