SHENANDOAH – Panther Valley was hoping to pick up right where they left off last week (a 24-21 victory over Marian).
Instead, Shenandoah Valley picked off six Panther Valley passes and sent the Panthers back to the drawing board with a 32-0 Anthracite Football League victory.
The loss drops the Panthers to 1-6 on the season, while the Blue Devils improve to 4-3.
With leading rusher Josh Vega missing the game due to personal reasons and Panther Valley forced to start its fourth different quarterback of the season (Nick McArdle), it appeared Panther Valley's backs were to the wall before they even stepped on the field.
However, aside from a 23-yard touchdown run by Eric Whalen at the 7:23 mark of the first quarter, the Panthers went into the break trailing 6-0 in a half that they were outgained by just 20 yards (106 to 86).
"We had people out, we're banged up and we're moving kids all around, but it all boils down to execution," stated Panther Valley head coach Frank Damian. "We had opportunities there in the first half, but we just couldn't cash in on them."
After trading punts to open the game, Shenandoah's Anthony Stanitis intercepted McArdle (making his first varsity start) to give the Blue Devils good field position on the Panthers 23 yard line. One play later, Whalen tore through the middle of the Panthers defense and raced 23 yards to pay dirt.
Panther Valley got the ball back on a Frank Celentano fumble recovery, but the Panthers turned the ball over on downs after using eight plays to drive all the way down to the Shenandoah 24 yard line.
After again exchanging punts, Panther Valley's Noah Frey recovered a muffed punt at the Blue Devil's 24 yard line, but the Panthers failed to capitalize as Chris Palubinsky intercepted McArdle.
After McArdle avenged his costly turnover with an interception of his own, he gave the ball right back when Colin Karahuta picked off McArdle for the third Shenandoah interception of the first half.
"We had success last week in the passing game, especially with Brock, so we wanted to try to replicate that," added Damian. "But again, if you can't score points, you're going to get yourself behind the eight ball."
Both teams again traded punts to open the second half, but Shenandoah finally broke through with a backbreaking play in the shadows of its own goal post. Faced with a third-and-seven from their own 16 yard line, wide receiver Colin Karahuta got behind the Panthers defense and Palubinsky hit him in stride on a post pattern that went 84 yards to the house.
Palubinsky then picked off his second pass of the game setting up the Blue Devils with a first-and-goal from the Panthers 5. Three plays later, Palubinsky hit Billy Moyer with a fade pass in the back corner of the end zone for a 19-0 Blue Shenandoah lead.
Moyer and Palubinsky hooked up again on Shenandoah's next possession with a 55-yard touchdown strike and Eric Whalen put the nail in the coffin six plays later with an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown (McArdle's fifth of the game).
"It's growing pains, that's all it is," stated Damian regarding his junior quarterback. "It was Nick's first start at quarterback and he was going up against a good physical defense. He threw some nice balls early but Shenandoah made the proper adjustments and took a lot of things away from us the rest of the way."
"But again, we'll regroup this week, pick ourselves back up and get ready for a good rivalry game with Tamaqua."