FOUNTAIN SPRINGS – Good teams find a way to win.
Great teams find a way to persevere.
Such was the case last night at Spartan Stadium, when North Schuylkill posted its 27th straight Anthracite Football League victory (dating back to 2008) with a 41-7 victory over Panther Valley.
The Spartans (9-0), coming off a tough three-game stretch against Tamaqua, Mount Carmel and Mahanoy Area entered last night's game battered, bruised and broken.
Sitting on the sidelines were the team's top three rushers and its leading receiver. Also out injured where North Schuylkill's entire starting linebacking corps in addition to a starting cornerback.
Yet, somehow the Spartans found a way to get the job done.
"That's the way our program is built," stated North Schuylkill head coach Rick Geist. "When a kid goes down, someone else has to step up and get the job done and you've been seeing that in these last few games."
Running backs Ethan Motsney and Curt Adams stepped in a big way, starting with the first drive of the game.
Motsney and Adams combined for all 47 yards on the five-play drive that was capped off by an Adams five-yard touchdown run.
However, the Panthers answered right back chewing up five minutes of clock on a 14 play, 75-yard drive, which resulted in six first downs. Quarterback Mike Weaver galloped in from 13 yards out to tie the game at 7-7 with 4:37 remaining in the first quarter.
"We need to come out with more energy and passion," added Geist. "We let them march right down the field on us on their first drive. We need to do a better job defensively, because I thought we looked horrible tonight, especially in the first half."
On Panther Valley's next drive, the ball bounced the way of the Spartans, as a Nick McArdle pass ping-ponged off about four players before it was finally caromed by a diving Mike McGrath for an interception.
Seven plays later, Adams punched it in from five yards out for a 14-7 lead.
The Panthers had a chance to trim the deficit, as they drove deep into Spartans territory on their next drive, but a Brock Mitchell 29-yard field attempt was wide left.
North Schuylkill then drove 80 yards on 10 plays, culminating with a Ryan Henning to Danny McSurdy 12-yard touchdown pass to up the lead to 21-7 going into halftime.
Adams punched in his third touchdown of the night on a 23-yard run to open the third quarter and extend the lead to 28-7.
Panthers head coach Lon Hazlet the went into his bag of tricks, and attempted a fake punt at their own 31-yard line, but the Spartans snuffed it out when Rich Smith's pass went right into the arms of McGrath for his second interception of the night.
Motsney then took a handoff and raced 15 yards to pay dirt for a 35-7 lead, as North Schuylkill scored twice in a span of 35 seconds to blow the game wide open.
Then, on the opening play of the fourth quarter, Motsney capped off the scoring with a 8-yard touchdown run to pull ahead 41-7.
"North Schuylkill is a great program and they're extremely well-coached," stated Hazlet. "We have a long way to go, but the kids played hard tonight and for three quarters, I thought we played a pretty good ballgame."
The Spartans rushed for 301 yards (199 coming from Motsney and Adams) on 50 carries and piled up 425 yards of total offense.
While Panther Valley (1-8) accumulated 135 yards of offense and 10 first downs in the first half, North Schuylkill stymied the Panthers for just 36 yards and three first downs after the break.
"Mike Weaver is out there gutting it up, Richie (Smith) ran hard, Nick (McArdle) had a couple of nice catches and I thought the offensive line played pretty well for the most part," concluded Hazlet. "Even though we lost, I'm proud of our kids."