Mahanoy Area for the first time in a long time had some high expectations coming into the 2011 high school football season and the Bear faithful were eager to see if their team could live up to the pre-season hype.
The Bears didn't disappoint romping Panther Valley 33-12 in an Anthracite Football League opener in Mahanoy City. The Bears didn't waste any time jumping all over the Panthers scoring at the 7:04 mark in first. The score came on a two-yard run up the middle by quarterback Mike Gaval. Mahanoy then capitalized on a Panther interception thrown by a heavily pressured Nick McArdle when Gaval tossed a 17-yard strike to Neal Goodman for a touchdown. Goodman split two PV defenders on the play and coasted into the end zone to give the bears a 13-0 advantage with 4:44 left in the first.
The Panthers would not lay down however, when Mike Weaver received a hand off at the PV 35 and busted the seam for a 65 yard touchdown scamper. The Panthers then took advantage of a Mahanoy fumble when Lon Hazlet and his coaching staff reached into their bag of tricks to try and get the Mahanoy defense off balance. Anthony German caught a lateral pass from quarterback Nick McArdle and then heaved the ball 69 yards to a wide open Kyle Ferryman for the score and just like the Panthers were back in the game down 13-12.
"When they came back on us like that it was kind-of a wake up call for our kids", said Bears Head Coach Wally Hall. "We lost focus there for a bit and when your playing a well coached team like Panther Valley it can come back to bite you."
A wake up call was exactly what the PV comeback served as for the Bears as they dominated the rest of the contest from then on running the ball all over the Panther defense.
"Our line played great tonight", added Hall. "What I was most impressed with was how every phase of our rushing attack was working for us.
"We preach to our kids all the time to finish plays and our running backs and quarterback really did a good job of finishing off their runs."
The Panthers ran the ball pretty well themselves but it was evident they were overwhelmed in the trenches when trying to defend the Bears rushing attack.
"This is a strong and physical bunch", said Panthers first year Head Coach Lon Hazlet. "Were a young team and were going to make mistakes, but I'm really proud of my kids efforts, they played hard till the end."
The Panthers youth showed at times with PV amassing nine penalties in the contest, some coming at key points in their drives or on a big gain.
"We had some unfortunate penalties happen to us at unfortunate times in the game", added Hazlet. "Tonight showed we have a lot of work to do as a football team and we will get better because we have a great bunch of kids."
The Panthers head to Schuylkill Valley next to week to try and rebound from an opening week loss.