SCHUYLKILL HAVEN - Going into its game with Schuylkill Haven, Panther Valley felt it had a decent chance to pull out a win.
The Hurricanes' leading rusher, Anthony Cooper, was out with a knee injury, and with a presumably capable group up front, the Panthers thought they would be able to match up well in the trenches.
Things didn't go according to the plan, however.
Freshman tailback William Casella rushed 31 times for 215 yards and a touchdown and Haven easily dominated up front, in the back, and many other places for the deceptive 16-6 final.
"We wanted to run, but they took that away from us," Panther head coach Lon Hazlet admitted afterwards, as he saw his team drop to 1-4 on the season. "We thought we could run, but they were more physical. They won it in the trenches."
As a matter of fact, the Hurricanes had 22 first downs to PV's five, and had more ground attack firepower, 358 yards to PV's 10. Put that ingredient into the mix, and it spelled certain tragedy for Hazlet's troops.
"We're young in our skill positions, but we are determined and we have a lot of heart," Schuylkill Haven head coach Mike Farr commented. "We may not be healthy at the moment, but we'll definitely get better."
They looked just fine in this matchup, as the Panthers realistically had possession of the ball considerably less than the victors. At one point in the third frame, Schuylkill Haven took the ball on its own seven and ran 15 plays that spanned well over eight minutes in a crucial stretch of the game. Adding to the impact, the Hurricanes scored on the drive, taking a 16-0 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter.
"For Schuylkill Haven to be successful in a football game, we need to handle the ball well and maintain possession," Farr stated. "Tonight, we did that and did it well, considering."
In fact, the 'Canes had possession in the second half for 17:25 of the available 24 minutes to keep the Panther defense on the field much more than they wanted to be.
Haven opened up the scoring in the first quarter, when PV's fourth play from scrimmage wound up yielding a safety when Haven's Zach Kerschner recorded a tackle in the end zone.
Shortly afterward, freshman quarterback Ryan Fink found a wide open Scott Moyer down the right sideline for a 31-yard TD. The score was 9-0 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
The teams then remained scoreless until the big possession in the third that brought on Casella's 15-yard scoring run for the 16-0 swell.
Immediately following, Panther Valley made the most of one of their few second-half possessions, when Nick McArdle turned a seemingly routine pass into a very nice scoring reception. Weaver found McArdle about five to 10 yards up the field for the reception, but the senior QB rolled in for a 53-yard score.
When the Panthers went for two, the Hurricane pressure stepped up and the final score was complete.
"We definitely have our work cut out for us next week," Hazlet admits. "With Marian, we have to be more physical and we're going to have to get bigger."