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Friday, August 23, 2013
Chips remain on shoulders of No. 20 Plymouth South

By John Botelho

PLYMOUTH, Mass. -- The 2012 football season may have been the finest Plymouth South has ever seen, as the Panthers captured their first Atlantic Coast League crown and earned a first-ever playoff berth.

In the Division 2A playoffs, they took Natick and Boston College commit Troy Flutie to the wire before falling 38-33 to end the Panthers season. South’s star running back, Dylan Oxsen, capped a remarkable season with perhaps his best game ever.

He finished that game with 310 rushing yards on 29 carries, and scored all five of the Panthers touchdowns. Oxsen finished the season with 2,100 rushing yards and a state-best 40 scores, earning him a spot on the 2012 ESPN Boston All-State team.

“A lot of people didn’t even give us a chance that night. That game was sort of our coming out party,” said South coach Scott Fry. “It was really Dylan’s coming out party too. People got see what he, and what we, were capable of.”

Even after all of that, the Panthers are entering 2013 with something of a chip on their collective shoulders.

“Dylan is one inch too short,” said South coach Scott Fry. “If he was another inch taller, he’d be looking at places like UConn or UMass. He’s not the only one -- we have probably five or six guys on our team who can play football in college. Our linemen are also a little bit undersized, but these guys are all good football players.

"They see kids they’ll play against committing and getting scholarship offers, and it just motivates our guys. They cannot wait to play against them and prove they can play at the same level.”

In addition to Oxsen -- who hasn’t yielded an official scholarship offer yet, the Panthers also have guys like offensive tackle 6-4, 265-pound Shaun Duncombe, a Bryant commit; and 6-foot, 235-pound center Brendan Harty (who Oxsen and Fry both believe to be the best lineman in the ACL), who remains uncommitted.

“It does get frustrating sometimes,” said Oxsen. “You know a lot of schools have given out their available scholarships already. There’s been a whole bunch of interest, but not a lot of talk about offers. It’s driven us to work even harder this offseason to prove last year wasn’t just a one-time thing.”

Oxsen -- who ran seven miles on the eve of the first day of the 2013 season -- and his Panther teammates know they’ll play all year with a target on their backs, after clinching the ACL title by scoring on a hook-and-ladder in the final minute against Nauset last fall.

“We’re not going to sneak up on anyone this year,” Oxsen said. “We’ve worked hard all offseason though, so we’re hoping we don’t need any last minute scores like that to win games. We know we’re good enough to do it, but we also know it won’t be easy. All year, we’ll have to show up with our best football.”

A few holes will need to be filled this season, one of which will be responsible for getting the ball to Oxsen after quarterback Jason Lamb. Even if teams hope to exploit a new QB by stacking the box and limiting Oxsen’s output, they will find it quite challenging.

“Dylan didn’t pile up 40 scores from one yard out,” Fry said. “I think 25 of them came from more than 40 yards. We kind of welcome of it if teams want to put eight or nine guys in the box because he’s strong enough to break initial tackles and break off big runs. You’re talking about 185-pound kid who bench presses more than 300 pounds. He doesn’t go down very easily.”

And because of that, the Panthers won’t go down very easily on any Friday night this season.

PLYMOUTH SOUTH AT A GLANCE
Coach: Scott Fry
Last Season: 8-4, lost in Div. 2A Playoffs
Returning Starters: 14 (seven offense, seven defense)
Key Returnees: Sr. RB/LB Dylan Oxsen, Sr. C Brendan Harty, Sr. RB/LB Anthony Schena, Sr. OL/DL Shaun Duncombe, Sr. LB Matt Bremis
Strengths: Running backs, offensive line, linebackers.
Weaknesses: Quarterback experience.
Outlook: With All-State running back Dylan Oxsen (2,100 rushing yards, 40 touchdowns in 2012) back in the fold, this team is among the favorites in the Division 3 Southeast. With three starting linemen back in front of Oxsen, the Panthers could be primed to repeat as Atlantic Coast League champs. If South can develop a passer to throw enough screen and dump passes to keep defenses honest, the Panthers could have one of the best offenses in the state this season.