After a grinding football game where a pair of even squads went deep into the fourth quarter before either was assured victory, Plainfield coach Brian Woodard went to another sport to describe the game. A boxing analogy seemed most appropriate.
“We talked to our kids all week, it was going to be a 12-round, title-fight kind of game, and that’s what it turned out to be,” Woodard said.
At the end Friday night at Walter Cross Field, it was Plainfield (2-0) that had its hand raised in victory, taking a 17-14 victory over Kokomo (1-1) in the Kats’ home opener. The Quakers took the victory in the fourth quarter with a touchdown and two key defensive stops.
Kokomo led 14-10 going into the fourth quarter but Plainfield was ready to strike. The Quakers took advantage of a Kokomo fumble on the second-to-last play of the third quarter that put Plainfield on the Wildkat 25. Four plays into the fourth quarter, Plainfield took the lead on an open five-yard run by fullback Daylon Weddle.
The Wildkats then marched 46 yards in 10 plays, but the Kats stalled on the Plainfield 25 on a fourth-and-four play. Kokomo had been getting yards in chunks before turning the ball over on downs, but its last four rushes in that possession went for just one, three, two and one yards.
Plainfield took possession with 4:31 left and Kokomo’s last good chance slipped away. The Kats got the ball back with just under 2:00 on the clock but starting from their own 27, Kokomo had to go to the air and wasn’t able to get a first down. Plainfield ran out the final 1:04 with a pair of kneel-downs.
“We’re not going to fool anybody, neither of us are,” Kokomo coach Brett Colby said. “We want to run the football and [Friday] was just a test of wills. I think defenses played a large part.”
After two key defensive stops in the final quarter, the Quakers would agree.
“Kokomo is a difficult team to defense,” Woodard said. “I think the only way you do is you have to get them off schedule. I think we did that a little bit, put them in a place where I don’t think they were uncomfortable, but instead of a [next down]-and-three, it was an and-six. [Kokomo has] phenomenal players, great coaches, we just had a few more guys make plays down the stretch.
“When you play a team like Kokomo, the longer the game goes along, the more it slows down for the defenses and I think that’s probably what happened.”
Plainfield struck first with a 32-yard field goal from kicker Morgan Hagee with 9:13 left in the second quarter. Kokomo’s response took nine plays when Bo Baker shot through a hole and scampered 41 yards, breaking tackles along the way, for a Wildkat TD with 5:33 left in the second.
It took just two plays and 64 seconds for Plainfield to re-take the lead on a 76-yard TD combination from quarterback Jacob Jay to Chad Middleton on the left sideline. Kokomo snagged a 14-10 lead on a rollout pass from QB Tayler Persons to an open Austin D’Agostino for a 20-yard TD pass with 9:48 left in the third.
For Plainfield, Blevins gained 109 yards on the ground and Jay passed for 145. For the Wildkats, Copeland rushed or 108 yards and Baker 81. On defense for the Kats, Persons had seven solo tackles and three assists, and Quinton Young had three solos and seven assists.
Colby said two Kat fumbles hurt, but several key moments here and there mattered just as much.
“You get into a game like this and three or four plays can make a big difference,” Colby said. “I thought the one drive where we ended up stopping them for a field goal was a frustrating drive on my part because we had third and 20 I think twice and they get first downs. And we lost by three.
“Hopefully we can get better from this and I think we will. We’re such a young team on the field, starting a lot of first-year kids, this was a good gut-check for us. Our kids aren’t quitting on us, they’re going out there and giving it their all. I’m happy with the effort.”