PLYMOUTH — It was late in the third quarter when Plymouth South senior running back Dylan Oxsen was trusted with the carry at his 41-yard line, but for the second time in the quarter, the ball popped out of his hands after impact, this time right into the arms of Plymouth North defensive back Colby Randall.
Oxsen’s first turnover, at the 31, earlier in the quarter led to North’s only score of the night, a 1-yard, fourth-down quarterback sneak by junior Cullin Cosgrove. So after his second drop, Oxsen was visibly upset as he paced the sidelines.
Before doubt could creep in, Panthers coach Scott Fry let his star rusher know that his errors were in the past.
His words inspired Oxsen to lead his team in a 7-6 victory over its crosstown rival on Friday.
Plymouth South will face Stoughton, a 16-14 winner over Oliver Ames, in the Division 3 state semifinals Friday at 7 p.m. at Brockton High School.
“Coach told me he knows I’m the guy for the job,” Oxsen said. “He said ‘don’t put your head down, you can’t get yourself down, I’m going to keep giving you the ball. You didn’t fumble, we’re coming right back to you and we want you in the end zone.’ ”
With a little more than seven minutes left in the final quarter, Oxsen got the ball on nine out of 10 carries. He found gaps on the left side, notably a 13-yard burst for a first down. With five yards to go, he found a hole again for the touchdown.
Junior kicker Gordan Fitzgerald’s extra point sailed through the uprights to give South the lead and its defense took care of the rest.
Fry cited the strength of his defense.
“Going into the game, we were playing unbelievable defense,” Fry said. “They’re a physical defense, so are we. It was just two really good teams who went at it tonight.”
In a scoreless first half, Oxsen had 58 yards on 17 carries and Plymouth North standout running back Christian Carr carried the ball 11 times for 51 yards.
Fry said that fullback and middle linebacker Matt Bremis, a senior captain, was an “inspirational leader.”
“He’s a typical I fullback,” Fry said. “Just the heart and soul of what he does for this team — so physical — he’s just a quality person.”
Bremis credited Oxsen for being mentally tough by shaking off his two fumbles.
“You’re not going to get any better than [Oxsen],” Bremis said. “He runs the ball hard, he knows he’s got to overcome adversity. I know he can come through.”
He added that despite the victory, there is a mutual respect between the rivals.
“All those players out there are great kids,’’ Bremis said. “They’re my cross-town brothers.”Peter Cappiello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @petecapps