With the game close and their opponent driving in the final minute of play, Plymouth's Nate Emmenger again was in the right place at the right time for the Wildcats.
Emmenger, who has forced pivotal turnovers all season, picked off a Livonia Churchill pass from Seth Suda to seal a 20-14 victory and a district title for the Wildcats. The interception halted a productive late-game drive by the Chargers, who needed just a touchdown and extra point to pull off a come-from-behind victory.
Plymouth coach Mike Sawchuk said the clutch defensive play was typical for Emmenger.
"I saw (the play) but i haven't seen really what happened, but Nate (Emmenger) always seems to be in the right spot at the right time," Sawchuk said.
Emmenger's pick was the second devastating interception for Churchill, which fired the first salvo against Plymouth on Romello Brown's one-yard touchdown run with 7:50 remaining in the first quarter. Plymouth's Matt Janke returned a pass from Suda 36 yards into the Chargers' end zone with 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter to tie the game.
Brenton Zuzo's 21-yard field goal and a 24-yard touchdown reception by Conner Stella from Plymouth quarterback Jamarl Eisland capped a 17-point second quarter that put the Wildcats up 17-7 at the half.
Zuzo added a a second field goal with 1:05 in the third quarter to boost the Wildcats' lead to 20-7.
Sawchuk said the Wildcats aimed to keep the Chargers "off schedule" and force bad passes on third-and-long. He praised his team's ability to largely keep Churchill's offensive weapons, such as Brown, in check.
Brown finished with 149 yards on 26 carries and -2 passing yards on one attempt for the Chargers.
Plymouth, for its part, played what Sawchuk called "grind" football, relying on its potent ground game. The Wildcats connected on just 3-of-7 passes for 50 yards, but Eiland rushed for 125 yards on 20 carries.
Churchill, however, wouldn't go down without a fight. Brown again found the end zone for the Chargers on a 20-yard carry with 7:33 remaining in the fourth quarter, as Churchill began to show signs of life late in the game, cutting the deficit to a one-possession game.
The Chargers' late-game heroics stalled, however, on Emmenger's interception. With both teams fresh out of timeouts, the Wildcats took a knee to run out the clock.
Sawchuk praised his team's energy heading into Friday's game, one week after ousting the campus rival Canton Chiefs in the district semifinal.
"You're in the playoffs now," Sawchuk said. "You lose and you're out, and some of these kids may never play football again."
- Photos from Friday's victory
- Replay the play-by-play from Friday's game