When asked how to sum up his Plymouth football team after a month, Mark Genders cited inconsistent play. That explains why the Big Red are 2-2 (0-1 Firelands Conference) entering Friday’s home game against visiting St. Paul (3-1, 1-0).
“Just a little bit inconsistent and trying to figure out and learn what it takes to win each week,” Genders said of his team. “Emotion is a big part of that. You have to come in each week, do your job and play at your highest level — and we’ve been inconsistent in a few spots like that.
“Obviously you can’t do that in football, especially with the teams we’ve played,” he added. “Against Willard (38-35 loss), a couple mental mistakes made us pay. Last week at South Central (22-7 loss), they were ready to play like it was the Super Bowl, and our kids seemed a little flat with a lack of emotion — and here we sit at 2-2.”
By now, Genders said there are no secrets with what St. Paul — ranked No. 14 in the latest Division VII Associated Press state poll — does each week. The Flyers, also winners of 40 FC games in a row, will again boast a strong running game.
St. Paul is averaging 259 yards and four touchdowns per game on the ground, and is paced by junior running back Cam Caizzo (540 yards, 9 TDs) and senior back Noah Good (360 yards, 4 TDs).
“The greatest thing they do is show up, and every single kid does their job at their highest ability — every single snap,” Genders said of St. Paul. “That’s what separates them. There is no play off. What John Livengood has done in demanding that and getting it from his team is why it’s one of best programs in all of Ohio. It’s what we strive to get to.
“We hang our hat on effort, physicality and toughness,” he added. “Doing it consistently is what we struggled with so far, but they do it week in, week out at St. Paul. That’s why they get so much better each week. It makes them who they are.”
Meanwhile, Livengood said he had circled the Big Red before the season started as a team with a lot of returning starters and experience coming back.
"And they'll have that again next year with a number of juniors playing for them,” Livengood said. “And a lot of size with Brayden Allen (6-foot-2, 285) and Scott Jennings (6-4, 315) at tackles. They also go 220 (Treven Lane, Avery Horne) and 225 (Jaden Oney) at center and guard. So they are huge up front, and their skilled kids are big, too.”
Livengood also noted senior Kade Collins (5-10, 210) has become the main running back and linebacker to replace Seth Bailey — who graduated as the program’s all-time single-season rusher (1,596) and tackler (151).
“He runs a lot like Bailey did and it's a lot of the same thing defensively,” he said of Collins. “He's a very good linebacker, a physical kid with good size. Defensive line, they're big there as well. They are definitely a lot bigger than us, and run an offense that is difficult to defend.
“They are a ball control offense very content to get 3-to-4 yards a play, and take time off the clock while marching down the field and moving the chains,” Livengood added on Plymouth. “With the double tight and double wing, it's tough to match up with. They hang their hat on that, and they run some unbalanced stuff, so the tackles are side by side at 285 and 315 pounds. They like to pound the ball.”
St. Paul lost its first regular season game in three years when it fell at home vs. Tiffin Calvert on Sept. 7. However, the Flyers responded last week by scoring six times in the first quarter — and on three of their first four plays — in a 61-0 win over New London.
"The kids responded well,” Livengood said. “When you play a tough team like Calvert, they are going to expose the areas you need to improve at — and those were some things we were able to address after playing them.
“Some of those areas our kids did step up and get better with, but more than that, the mental approach and response to getting beat was what impressed me the most,” he added.
Meanwhile, Genders knows what his team is going to have to do in order to stay with St. Paul on Friday.
“We’re going to have to match that ability they have to give their best effort on every single play,” he said. “It really goes no further than doing those things consistently.
“We have to go all out, every play,” Genders added. “If you don’t do that against St. Paul, they will run you off the field.”