Plymouth zeroes in on Canton, posts first-ever shutout of Chiefs
Swarming defense, workhorse running back fuel Wildcats’ victory
In a rivalry game played partially under a full moon, Plymouth’s defensive stars were aligned and locked in against Plymouth-Canton Educational Park rival Canton Friday night.
The Wildcats shut out the Chiefs for the first time in the two schools’ 18-year rivalry, winning 16-0 to save a season that had started out 0-2.
Both teams walked off the turf with identical 1-2 records (both share 1-1 KLAA West marks, too) but it’s the Wildcats who filled their momentum tanks to the brim to post a vital early-season triumph.
“We had a great week of practice leading up to this game,” said Plymouth Head Coach Greg Souldourian. “Everybody had an edge to them. We even had a couple scrums, but that’s what you need — that competitiveness — to be successful.”
Souldourian said part of the team’s preparation included taking a trip back to the program’s glory days of 2010-12 (the Wildcats went a combined 19-5 in 2010 and 2011).
“We watched some old film from those years and told the kids to watch how physical those teams played and how it led to those teams being successful,” Souldourian said. “To finish off the game with a five-minute drive capped by a field goal, that’s a dream come true for a coach.
“(Jaxon McGaig) is our guy, he’s a dude. Our quarterback (Sam Plencner) battled his butt off, too. He took a lot of hits, but he’s a tough kid. I take my hat off to Canton, too. Both teams battled hard. It seemed like an all-out war out there.”
Offensively, the Wildcats were powered by workhorse junior running back McGaig, who motored for 188 yards on 28 carries.
Canton’s defensive backs caught more passes (1) — Caleb Williams picked off a Plencner first-half pass — than did their receivers or running backs (0) as both of sophomore quarterback Devvin Calhoun’s passes fell incomplete.
The Chiefs’ offense was led by Dillon Calhoun (10 carries for 79 yards) and Devon Pettus (13 carries for 78 yards).
The contest’s first half was chippier than an old-school Red Wings-Avalanche hockey game as both teams were whistled for multiple personal-foul penalties.
Plymouth seized a 7-0 lead half-way through the opening stanza when McGaig exploded untouched into the end zone from five yards out (Luke Damiani crushed the extra point). The TD was set up six plays earlier when Jorgito Shqau (maybe the coolest name in Michigan high school football this season) recovered a fumble at the Chief 42.
Plymouth converted a successful onside kick moments later but couldn’t turn the momentum into points.
The Wildcats upped their lead to 13-0 on their first drive of the second half when McGaig busted loose on a 37-year TD run. Damiani’s extra point was wide left.
Damiani accounted for the game’s final points when his 29-yard field goal split the uprights in the final minutes.
Shqau had a monster game, registering four tackles — two behind the line of scrimmage.
Plymouth’s defensive star however, was senior Evan Cosgrove, who had five solo tackles while assisting on four others. Cosgrove also notched a sack.
Trailing 13-0, Canton mounted two deep scoring threats, but Cosgrove stopped Pettus one yard shy of a first down on a fourth-and-seven run at the Wildcats’ 8-yard line with 58.6 seconds left in the third quarter; and safety Alex Smaoui separated Canton receiver Nathan Levine from the ball with a jarring hit on a fourth-and-four pass play in the red zone.
Canton actually outgained Plymouth, 237-235, in total yards and ran 49 plays to the Wildcats’ 45. Both teams had 13 first downs.
Canton hosts Northville next Friday while Plymouth travels to Howell.
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