Panther Valley's young football players received a lesson the hard way.
Get dominated up front. Walk off the field with an "L".
The Panthers, who lost 15 players to graduation from last year's squad, were completely manhandled in the trenches Friday night against visiting Mahanoy Area and the result was an 18-0 shutout.
"Mahanoy came out and totally dominated us up front," said PV head coach Frank Damian. "We couldn't get anything going. We didn't help our cause by turning the ball over three times.
"We had numerous chances but we didn't cash in on them. If you make mistakes at critical times ... That's what a young football team is going to do."
Damian's squad hung tough with the Golden Bears, trailing by just a 6-0 margin at the half.
But things quickly changed after the break.
The visitors took the second half kickoff and marched 68 yards in eight plays to not only extend the lead to 12-0 but to also flex its muscles against a smaller Panther team.
"That's the sign of a team that works, is committed and wants to get the job done," said Mahanoy mentor Wally Hall of his club's second-half start. "We told them from day one that they have to deserve to win and that starts with commitment and being able to outwork their opponent."
"We wanted to come out and stop them," said Damian. "Give them credit. They came out and drove it right down our throats. We couldn't stop them They just outmatched us. They had a good scheme."
Mike Gaval, the Bears' starting quarterback, did most of the damage during the drive. The junior broke a 20-yard run to get the march in motion and completed passes of 17 and 13 yards. Nick Forte capped things off with a two-yard scoring plunge.
Moments later, Mahanoy was up 18-0. A PV fumble resulted in a short field and Gaval went in from eight yards out to cap the night's scoring.
"Mike is an athlete," said Hall of his signal-caller, who ended the contest with 139 yards rushing and two TDs. "He knows the offense and knows how to engineer it."
"We knew their quarteback was the key," added Damian. "He definitely makes things go. Their fullback (Forte) impressed me too. He ran hard. He was carrying three, four black jerseys down the field. You have to find a way to tackle him."
Panther Valley also has to find a way to get into the end zone.
The Panthers reached Mahanoy territory on six different occassions, including the nine-yard line one time. But they couldn't gain the tough yards when it mattered most.
Among the few highlights for PV were a 35-yard run from Josh Vega, and a 26-yard hookup from Joe Revell to Mike Weaver.
"The best part about this is we can only get better," said Damian, whose team was held to just one first down in the final two quarters. "There's nothing you can take positive from this game. We got our butts handed to us. It's that simple. If we play like this every night, we're not going to win too many football games."