Plymouth's not-so-secret weapon may look small, but he plays big
Plymouth — Mike Mathias has helped Plymouth earn a spot in the KLAA championship game with his ability to make big plays on a consistent basis on both sides of the ball during his senior year.
Mathias plays with a chip on his shoulder, using the fact that he has been under the radar to give him extra motivation every time he steps on the field.
And Mathias and Plymouth will never be more of an underdog than in the league title game Friday night when No. 17 Plymouth plays host to No. 2 Belleville in a battle of unbeatens.
Belleville will enter the game on a 32-game regular-season unbeaten streak and showcases more than a dozen Division I players with more than a handful owning offers from Power Five schools, including Michigan-bound cornerback Andre Seldon, four-star junior tackle Damon Payne, four-star junior linebacker Jamari Buddin, three-star junior tackle Ramier Lewis and Indiana-bound tackle Coleon Smith.
“We’ve been on edge all week in practice, super, super engaged,” Mathias said of preparing for Belleville. “We’re not on social media, none of that stuff, can’t let anything get to our heads and we’ll be fine.”
Mathias enjoys playing for second-year head coach Brian Lewis and Lewis’ father, defensive coordinator Brian Lewis Sr.
“He trusts us and we trust him and with that bond you can accomplish a lot,” Mathias said of Lewis. “He wants to run a good spread offense and play a good 4-3 defense.”
Mathias stands 5-foot-6, weighs 170 pounds and has no stars next to his name, just plays like one which a reason Plymouth has a chance to earn its first unbeaten regular season in the program’s 16-year history.
“This is a big game, two 8-and-0 teams going at it,” said Mathias who noted that Plymouth was 6-3 last season, then lost to West Bloomfield in a Division 1 pre-district game.
It’s one thing for Mathias to not have a Division 1 offer, but he yet to receive interest from Division II schools.
“I kind of understand it since I’ve 5-foot-6 and it’s not something that coaches are really looking for, but I try to put on a show and make it so my team and I can be seen,” Mathias said.
Mathias has the ability to score any time he touches the ball with his 4.5 speed, a reason he has rushed for 881 yards and 12 TDs, averaging 8.9 yards a carry.
Mathias credits his offensive line for his big numbers in the ground game. He also has high praise for quarterback Nick Downs.
“Our O-line has been rolling and with how they’ve been working, it makes my job easy,” Mathias said. “Our first couple of drives, they’re usually eight to 10-minute drives, really, really long drives and those just beat down an opponent’s defense and after that they’re really tough to recover from.”
On Downs, Mathias replied: “He’s great and I trust him with every decision he makes.”
So, what is Mathias’ strength as a running back?
“I think I’m kind of fast. I like to see myself as kind of patient with it, but once I find the hole I try to hit it as hard as I can.”
But it could be even more impressive how Mathias has gotten things done from his safety position. In a 38-7 win over Howell, he scored in three different ways, a 55-yard touchdown run, a 73-yard interception TD return and a 53-yard TD reception. He scored on a 68-yard scoop and score in a 42-21 win over Novi while also rushing for 251 yards and four TDs, scored on a Pick 6 in a 42-7 rout of Northville, and also blocked a punt which led to a TD in a 15-13 win over rival Canton.
“Coach Lewis Sr., our head coach’s dad is a phenomenal coach and he puts me in the right positions on defense,” Mathias said. “I’ve had a couple of Pick 6s, recovered a fumble for a touchdown and blocked a punt against Canton. The blocked punt sparked us. Ivan Davis scooped it up (after blocked punt) and scored, then we scored on a two-point conversion which was the difference.”
Lewis is thrilled to have the versatile Mathias as one of his leaders.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Lewis said of Mathias. “He’s a tough, relentless kid, a high-compete level. He broke the school’s power clean record at 335 pounds this winter which is a testament to his work ethic, not only on the football field but in the weight room as well. He’s just a real team guy, energy guy. Kids love being around him, kids gravitate towards him. He definitely brings a confidence and an edge to our team which is much appreciated and much wanted.”
Lewis is surprised Mathias hasn’t received more looks from college coaches.
“I’m surprised and that’s why I’m mad at like Wayne State and these Division IIs, it’s like I don’t know what you want because this guy is electric with the ball in his hands,” Lewis said. “He’s playing both ways, plays every down. When he’s not making a play with the ball in his hands, he’s the one who blocked the punt against Canton. He just makes plays and he’s fast and you can’t teach speed like that.”