PLYMOUTH, Mass. -- Over the last two seasons, star running back Dylan Oxsen has been the driving force behind much of Plymouth South's success.
On Friday night, as South downed visiting crosstown rival Plymouth North, 7-6, to capture the Div. 3 Southeast Sectional crown, it became obvious early in the contest that Oxsen wasn't headed for the explosive performance many were predicting.
A slow start saw Oxsen rush for just two yards in the first quarter. The second quarter was better as Oxsen ripped off 45 yards before halftime.
Just three plays into the second half though, Oxsen fumbled away his first of two turnovers in the third quarter. That first one set up North's lone score of the game -- a 1-yard plunge on fourth down with 3:40 from QB Cullin Cosgrove. Dylan Anti blocked the ensuing point-after try, setting the stage for the comeback win.
The game looked like it might slip away from the Panthers when Oxsen fumbled his second carry of the next possession, setting the Eagles up inside the 50 again.
This time though, the defense pushed North backward before forcing a three-and-out. Instead of pinning South deep in their territory, Plymouth North was only able to get off an 11-yard punt because Matt Bremis tore through the line and nearly batted the kick down.
"Give it up to the defense," said Oxsen. "I fumbled twice and they still held North to one touchdown. They did a great job."
Even after losing two fumbles, there was never any question that South would be going back to Oxsen.
"If we're going to win a game, we're going to win it with Dylan Oxsen," said South coach Scott Fry. "Two fumbles or not, he's going to be the guy who has to carry the load to get us into the end zone. He hasn't scored 60-something touchdowns the last two years without being our go-to guy."
Oxsen rewarded that mindset on the very first play, tearing off an impressive 28-yard and moving the ball down to North's 35.
That was the first of eight consecutive carries for the go-to guy, twice more moving the chains before setting up a first-and-goal from the 6.
After Bremis took a carry, the ball went back to Oxsen on a sweep left. He broke one tackle near line of scrimmage and shot in for a touchdown, tying the game.
Gordan Fitzgerald's extra point put South up with 5:03 to play.
A facemask penalty on the kickoff pushed PN to midfield, but when a fourth-and-6 pass attempt fell to the ground, the Panthers took over with just under three minutes to play.
Once again, Oxsen -- who finished with 160 yards on a career-high 39 carries -- proved to be the go-to guy, taking five straight carries and picking up a pair of first downs before South took knees and advanced to next Friday's Div. 3 South game against Stoughton, with a trip to Gillette Stadium on the line.
THE LESS-HERALDED LEADER: Bremis helped set up Oxsen's go-ahead score with his pressure on the punt, but that was just the tip of his impact in the win. He was perhaps the key cog in slowing down North's Christian Carr, who rushed for more than 350 yards a week ago.
Against South, however, Carr was limited to 69 yards on 22 carries. Meanwhile, Bremis racked up a team-high 10 tackles from his linebacker position.
He also played an important role in the offense, rushing for 26 yards on eight carries in short-yardage situations. More importantly, he paved the way for Oxsen — especially on the game-winning drive — as a lead-blocker, and sealed off a would be tackler on the 28-yard gain.
"He's a fullback in an I-formation," said Fry. "He doesn't get a lot of press. Ya’ know, it's Oxsen, Oxsen, Oxsen, as well as it should be, but Ryan is a starting linebacker, a starting fullback and he's probably our inspirational leader on both sides of the ball."
Added Oxsen: "Bremis is an absolute animal. He loves football. He lives and breathes football. He is so aggressive on defense, he knows how to read everything, and I can't even put into words how good he is on defense. And when he gets the ball on offense, he's not going down on first contact. He's a wrecking ball and he does a lot for us."