SCHUYLKILL HAVEN - Panther Valley lost to Schuylkill Haven, 41-15 last night, but the lopsided score doesn't tell the game story.
The Panthers (1-4), without a bit of bad luck and with some cashing in on several scoring opportunities, might have pulled the upset over the Hurricanes (3-2).
First, the bad luck.
On the third play of the game, PV quarterback, Kyle Ferryman appeared to have broken free on a 59 yard touchdown run, but during the play an official blew an inadvertent whistle. The TD was nullified and the ball was placed on the Haven 40. The Panthers drive stalled inside the 20e and they had to settle for a 26 yard field goal by Mark Williams to take a 3-0 early lead.
"That whistle was a huge factor for us because we would have jumped out to a touchdown lead instead of the three," said Panther coach Lon Hazlet.
Then on Haven's first possession, the Hurricanes went to their game plan. Without injured quarterback, Ryan Fink, the Haven was downgraded to a tropical storm, but junior running back, Will Casella provided more than enough force as he ended a 12 play drive with the first of his six touchdowns on the night, a nine yard blast off tackle to give SH a four point first quarter lead.
PV tried to answer back, but a drive stalled at the Haven 15 with a missed field goal attempt. Another Casella touchdown run ensued to increase the Hurricane lead to 14-3 with eight minutes remaining in the half.
After a Panther punt , Casella, who carried the ball 34 times for 261 yards for the game, scored again from three yards out.
At 21-3, one might think the rout was on, but think again. The Panther's Anthony Vavra recovered the second half kickoff and five plays later PV made it 21-9 on a Richard Nase 15 yard run. The Hurricanes could not stop Panther Valley's two-headed monster all night as Ferryman and Nase combined for 304 yards rushing.
A huge missed opportunity occurred after the Nase TD when Haven again fumbled the kickoff and it was at first recovered by a Panther, but he fumbled it back to the Hurricanes. PV's defense forced a punt though, and their offense was back in business. From their own ten, a 34 yard pass and run play from Ferryman to Jacob Suveg was called back on a Panther holding penalty and on the very next play Ferryman's pass to Nase who had gotten behind Haven's secondary fell off his fingertips.
When asked if he was worried about keeping his team's lead, Haven coach Mike Farr said, "Yes I was. Ferryman and Nase can flat out play and we really didn't prepare well enough to stop them in their spread offense."
After Casella's fourth touchdown, PV battled back again. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Nase broke through the line and scampered for a 29 yard score to bring the Panthers within 13 points. After failing to recover an onside kick, the Panthers recovered a Casella fumble at the Haven 45 yard line. On a fourth and one at the Haven 35, Ferryman was stuffed at the line of scrimmage to end any chance of a Panthers' comeback.
"Tonight our team grew up," said Hazlet of his Panthers. "We really hit hard and played physical for much of the game. We came in here to play a really tough team with six players injured and only 24 in uniform. We had to move some people into positions they never played before and I am so proud of how we fought back even after they kept getting ahead of us on the scoreboard."
An inadvertent whistle, perhaps another fumble recovery, an open field pass catch and a converted fourth and one and the scoreboard just might have been flashing a different result when the game clock reached zero.