Amped-up Plymouth rolls over Livionia Stevenson in Battle at the Big House
ANN ARBOR — As hyped up as the Plymouth Wildcats were to be playing their first game under their new coach, and playing it in his old house, they still needed one of their leaders to give them a shot of adrenaline to overcome a rocky start to Friday’s season-opener.
They got it from junior Mike Mathias, who was bouncing off the walls at Michigan Stadium, and used that burst of energy to roll to a 35-11 win over Livonia Stevenson in the Battle at the Big House.
“It’s a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to play here. Winning on it, too, with such a big lead, I think it’s a good thing for the team, and how the season’s gonna go. I hope we can continue it, I really do, with the juice we brought today. That really helped us out,” said Mathias, who scored on a pair of touchdown runs on the afternoon.
“We had a great mentality coming in. All that hype in the locker room, on the bus ride here, the hype we had all through the summer, it really helped us out here. We had a lot of juice in one of the scrimmages, and we were like ‘Oh, my gosh. If we don’t bring the juice, we’re not gonna — we can’t do it. But we had it. We had it. We had it.”
Part of that hype was playing under a new coach in Brian Lewis, a guy who is well familiar with the venue the Wildcats found themselves in. Lewis was a student assistant under Rich Rodriguez while at Michigan, then worked as both in recruiting and as an offensive analyst under Brady Hoke before joining the high school coaching ranks at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard.
“It is (like home). This is the first time I’ve been on this field since my last game, when I was at Michigan. Pretty neat. Very familiar feel for me,” Lewis said.
“This is a very, very neat thing, coming here. I told them to embrace it. This is the biggest stadium in the country. Embrace this, but at the same time, their field is just as big as our turf field. The whole atmosphere is going to be fantastic, but at the same time, a field’s a field, and let’s just go play Plymouth-style football.”
The Wildcats did that after some early misfires.
Stevenson got on the board with a 21-yard field goal by Ethan Hamm, but Plymouth answered by driving the field, and scoring on a 5-yard run by Mathias. It was the junior receiver whose catch kept the drive alive, and gave the Wildcats the spark they needed.
“Early on, it did not feel like that. And then we got going, got our momentum. We had some big third-down conversions that really helped us. We had guys make plays early on. We were struggling, and we had guys make plays. Any offensive guy will tell you, when things get rocky you gotta have a guy make a play, and change momentum, and we had that today. That was really good early on for us to have,” Lewis said. “We threw one to Mike Mathias early, and it was kind of one of those where if we didn’t get a first down, I don’t know what our confidence would’ve been like. He caught it, spun out of it. That was a big play, because we were able to sustain that drive, go down and score to make it 7-3.”
One play after drawing a pass interference penalty, Mathais — who had 75 yards from scrimmage — took a jet sweep to the other side for a 33-yard touchdown to make it 14-3, and the rout was on.
“Yeah, he was juiced up, before the game, ready to rock and roll. You can just tell when you look in a kid’s eyes, if they’re ready to go, and Mike was ready,” Lewis said. “Mike’s worked very hard to get to his point. He’s worked on his hands, his route-running. We’ve asked him to do a lot of different things in our offense.”
Carson Miller — who had 108 yards on the ground — scored on a 46-yard screen pass in the waning moments of the first half to make it 21-3 at the break. Then, after quarterback Nick Downs punched in a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak, Miller added a 46-yard scoring jaunt to make it 35-3 headed to the fourth quarter.
Stevenson scored on a 3-yard touchdown run and a 2-point conversion run by Caden Woodall to close out the scoring.
“Unfortunately we didn’t execute as well as we needed to on the field, and that emotion didn’t carry over to the on-field play,” Stevenson coach Randy Micallef said. “They (the Wildcats) did a good job of executing their game plan, and making some big plays, and we weren’t able to respond.”