NORTH EASTHAM, Mass. -– You cannot stop him. You can only hope to contain him.
After missing last week’s contest with an ankle injury, Dylan Oxsen ran wild against Nauset, rushing for 243 yards on 37 rushes en route to a 27-6 victory over the Warriors.
“When you get him back on the practice field, the whole atmosphere changes,” said Panther coach Scott Fry. “The mood of the team, they knew what they were playing for today."
With the victory Friday night, the Panthers control their own destiny in the ACL. With a win in two weeks at Falmouth, Plymouth South will take the ACL for the second year in a row.
Nauset’s star tailback Jimmy Sullivan was limited after breaking a bone on the top of his hand in last week’s last second loss at Marshfield. Sullivan wore a cast on his right hand, eliminating the passing game.
“He had a broken hand and it’s in his palm so he can’t throw the ball at all,” said Nauset coach Keith Kenyon. “We certainly wanted him to run the ball and he did, but it was difficult for him to take snaps.”
It took Oxsen a quarter to find his groove. On the second play of the second quarter, Oxsen took a pitch to the left side and found a seam for a 34-yard score. Gordan Fitzgerald hit the extra point to give South the 7-0 lead.
On the following drive, the Warriors put together some offense, getting to the Panther 32-yard line, but the drive ended on a fourth-down interception that gave South the ball at their own 44.
Oxsen took command of the offense, rushing for over five yards per carry on the subsequent drive and capped it off with a 1-yard run in the final minute of the half to give South a 14-0 halftime lead.
With starting quarterback Rick Barnhardt on the sidelines after hurting his leg last week, sophomore Andrew Shortall made her first career start. While he only threw four times, he was effective, tossing for 55 yards and rushing for an additional 25 yards.
Nauset had trouble moving the ball in the first half, as they were out gained 153-79 in the first half. But their offense found a spark after halftime to get them back in the game.
The Warriors opened the second half with a 13-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off with a 2-yard scoring run from Sullivan that cut the lead to 14-6.
But it was all Plymouth South after that, as Nauset had no answer for Oxsen.
“That’s what he’s (Oxsen) been throughout his career here,” said Fry. “Just wear people down because he’s so strong and such great vision and the offensive line does too. I think over a matter of time they just keep pounding and pounding them.”
Oxsen ran for 125 of his 243 yards in the second half and outgained the Warriors offense as a whole (214 yards for Nauset). He had scoring runs of 1 and 17 yards in the final quarter, but more importantly kept the clock running for the duration of the fourth quarter to put away the victory.
Monster run game: The Panthers are a different team with Oxsen in the backfield. While the Panthers ran the ball effectively last week at D-Y, they lacked the ability to punch the ball into the end zone. But with Oxsen back tonight, the Panthers scored on every drive after their opening possession (turnover on downs).
Oxsen has the ability to put the exclamation point on every drive. His ankle took a quarter to warm up, but once it did, Oxsen found the explosiveness that we are accustomed to seeing from him.
The Panthers ran the ball at will in the second half after they wore down the front seven of Nauset.
“We’ve always been a second half team,” said Oxsen. “It depends how fired up we get. We came out fired up in the first half too but its just how we are were always more fired up in the second."
The Panthers were bit by the injury bug once again, losing senior quarterback Rick Barnhardt in the closing minutes of last week’s loss at D-Y, but Shortall stepped in beautifully.
While having Oxsen in the backfield will make it easier for an quarterback, Shortall did make a few big throws on third down and scrambled for a handful of first downs.
“Going in, we knew we were going to miss Ricky,” said Fry. “Just what he brings to the team. But the sophomore Shortall stepped in admirably to say the least. It adds another dimension to our offense.”
Losing Sullivan hurts: Jimmy Sullivan has had a standout year for Nauset. So when he broke his hand last week at Marshfield, but offense took a huge hit. Sullivan couldn’t throw the ball nor take snaps under center, two things he regularly does.
It didn’t take the Panthers long to figure out that Nauset couldn’t throw the ball (two interceptions on their first two passing plays) and could just play the run.
“Defensively, you can completely change your strategy when you know the kid doesn’t have the ability to throw the ball,” said Kenyon. “And that’s okay. We still ran the ball with some success tonight but it’s a lot of Dylan Oxsen. He’s a great back.”
Nauset still ran the ball with decent success. Sullivan ran for 80 yards on 15 carries and Kyle Cambone had 68 yards on 12 carries. But that running game couldn’t translate into points.
“Sullivan’s got a hyper extended left elbow, along with a broken right hand so he has two injuries on both arms,” said Kenyon. “It was just, let him run the ball but no threat to throw the ball and I think Plymouth South knew that after a while and they loaded up the box.”
In a game where Oxsen is running all over the offense, the Warriors couldn’t afford to not put up points on long drives, and that is exactly what happened.
The ACL beings to crystalize: The ACL has been beating up on each other all year. Heading into this game, three teams were tied at 3-1 (Nauset, South and Marshfield) and three teams at 1-2 (D-Y, North and Sandwich).
With the win, South takes sole possession of first place in the ACL (as Marshfield played a non-league game at Barnstable). Meaning that if South wins in two weeks at Falmouth (1-4, 0-4 ACL), they will win the ACL.
“If we lost this game, we wouldn’t control our own destiny and a lot of things had to go our way,” said Oxsen. “We knew that coming into this game, so we did what we had to do. We’ve got a bye this week and we’re gonna rest up our players.”
“Going in, when knew it was going to be a real competitive league with all the teams in the ACL,” said Fry. “We thought there might be a situation where everyone is going to lose at least one game. But we rebounded nicely and now we get to rest some kids and get ready for Falmouth.”
PLYMOUTH SOUTH 27, NAUSET 6
PS - Dylan Oxsen 34 run (Gordan Fitzgerald kick), 10:38
PS - Oxsen 2 run (Fitzgerald kick), :47
NA - Jimmy Sullivan 2 run (kick blocked), 4:02
PN - Oxsen 1 run (rush failed), 10:04
PN - Oxsen 17 run (Fitzgerald kick), 1:27