As Plymouth North quarterback Cullin Cosgrove released a short toss to his left, Dylan Oxsen flooded the passing lane, and using his powerful right hand, slapped the ball straight into the air.
An outside linebacker/safety on defense, the Plymouth South senior hauled in the loose ball and galloped 88 yards down the right sideline for a pick-six touchdown, putting his team on top of their traditional Thanksgiving Day rival, 14-0, in an eventual 21-14 win Friday night.
“I was pretty mad that I dropped the one before that,” said Oxsen, referring to a previous play in which he nearly had an interception.
“You’ve just got to read [the quarterback’s] eyes. He looked right at the receiver, I dropped back to where I was supposed to be and picked it off.”
It was quite a turn for Oxsen, who had to be assisted off the field in the first quarter after tweaking an ankle injury. He left the field twice more, grimacing with pain.
The state leader in rushing touchdowns last season (39, with 40 overall) at tailback, Oxsen said he has been battling the nagging injury since early last season.
He played through constant pain for three games before he was able to regain his strength and flexibility.
On Friday night, Oxsen told the Panthers’ trainer that he had to get back on the field; all he needed was more tape on the ankle.
“This is the biggest rivalry game of the year,” said Oxsen, taking note of a game that has normally been reserved for Thanksgiving morning, but now will also be scheduled during an abbreviated regular-season schedule to accommodate the new state playoff system.
“I’m a captain, I never want to let my team down. If we lost this game on a stupid error — I would’ve felt awful if we lost this game and I wasn’t in. I don’t want that riding on my shoulders.”
Oxsen finished the night with 150 yards on 21 carries, including a 58-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter along with his pick-six as the Panthers stayed perfect, at 3-0.
Coach Scott Fry s aid the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Oxsen, who is considering Bryant University, New Hampshire, and Penn for college, is the “focal point” of his offense and insisted he wouldn’t be away from the gridiron at all.
Especially not when Dennis-Yarmouth is next on the schedule.
He added that his player’s fitness level and resiliency are trademarks that make him so dangerous to opponents.
“The thing about Dylan is every time he touches the ball, he has the potential to score a touchdown,” Fry said. “He’s very explosive; as kids are getting tired as the game goes along, he just gets stronger and stronger. He’s kind of finishing where he left off last year.”
Oxsen said he wants to match his success/production of a year ago, but knows that it will be difficult considering that he is the focal point of every opposing defensive unit.
To compensate, the Panthers are trying to incorporate more passing into their attack.
That starts with senior quarterback Rick Barnhardt, who makes a read of the defense to determine run or pass. When he does hand the ball off to Oxsen, there is a feeling of trust and comfort.
The 6-1, 200-pound Barnhardt started his high school career at North, as a quarterback on the freshman team, but he transferred to South so that he could take carpentry classes. Last season, he was a wide receiver for South.
His said the game against his former team carried a little more weight for him because he wanted to prove he made the right decision in transferring. But that became a secondary thought when he saw Oxsen escorted off the field.
“When he went down, me and [senior running back] Matt Bremis looked at each other and were like, ‘It’s our job to step up and do better on the field,’ ” Barnhardt said. “We’ve got to do more for ourselves.”
Senior Shaun Duncombe
said he is concerned, too, but he understands that his fellow captain is too driven to stay sidelined for long.
“That’s what you look for in a captain,” said Duncombe, a 6-4, 265-pound two-way lineman (left tackle/nose guard). “Someone who wants to lead, someone who wants to always be in the game and get everyone pumped.”
Duxbury’s reality check
At halftime of Silver Lake’s homecoming game against visiting Duxbury, the freshman class from the host school performed a medieval-themed skit that involved a knight from Duxbury stealing a golden egg from a Silver Lake princess.
Students wearing purple and pink tights, turquoise gowns, and knight armor overcame their Dragon counterparts, but the fairytale remained just that.
In reality, Duxbury was crushing the Lakers, 21-0, at the half en route to a 29-0 victory on Saturday.
About five minutes into the game, Dragon starting QB Sean McCarthy ran a sweep to the outside and rolled his ankle on an awkward landing.
Freshman Bobby Maimaron got the call to replace McCarthy.
“It was pretty frightening because everyone’s a lot bigger than me,” Maimaron candidly said. “I did alright. I could’ve made better decisions and thrown better balls, but I was untouched all day. The team really stepped up their game.”
Previously, Maimaron had only seen time on the varsity as the holder on point-after attempts. But against Silver Lake, he tossed touchdown passes in the second and third quarters.
His father, coach Dave Maimaron, said there was so much going on in the game that he didn’t have time to think as a father when his son took the field.
He said he is proud of his team’s resiliency and clutch play, especially after a bye week.
“I really feel it’s kind of the first time we’ve played football the way we’re capable of playing,” Maimaron said. “On both of sides of the ball, for four quarters, it was really good to see.”
After a commanding 49-13 win over then-No. 1 Bridgewater-Raynham and former No. 1 Everett before that, top-ranked Xaverian fell to Barnstable, 15-14, on Friday.
With his team trailing 14-12, senior Dereck Pacheco played the hero for the Red Raiders (2-1) by kicking a 32-yard field goal with 1:36 showing on the game clock. It was the fourth week in a row a team ranked No. 1 by the Globe has been toppled.
Hawks (2-1) coach Charlie Stevenson said simply that his team is focused on getting better next week after the closest game it’s had all season.Peter Cappiello can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @petecapps.