"Three headed monster," "The big three," and "The three musketeers" all might be cliche´ nicknames when describing three athletes on the same team that perform well together. However, with the way Jim Thorpe's Ryan Saunders, Deonte St. Hill, and Robbie Heller played on Friday night, there's nothing wrong with calling them any of those three nicknames. That's because they definitely did the work on the football field to deserve it.
Saunders, St. Hill, and Heller combined for 424 yards rushing on the night, torching the Panthers at every turn, helping The Olympians claim a 49-20 Anthracite Football League victory.
Jim Thorpe most definitely dominated in this one, but the Panthers made it interesting in the first half.
Panther Valley actually got on the board first when speedster Kyle Ferryman broke a few JT tackles, going 42 yards for the score. It took the Panthers just three plays to get on the board and it looked like PV was readying for an upset.
The Olympians were not phased and they wasted no time striking back, scoring on their first two possessions. Saunders ran it in from 14 yards out and Heller added a 20 yard touchdown run to give Thorpe the lead. Although the game was close, the first quarter was a forshadowing of things to come as the Olympians ran 10 more plays in the quarter than the Panthers.
Panther Valley came up with another big play in the second when Ferryman found Anthony Micholick for a 74 yard pitch and catch, giving the lead back to the Panthers. Unfortunately for Panther Valley, their defense wasn't able to get a hold on the Jim Thorpe offensive attack at all throughout the night. Thorpe came back scoring back-to-back touchdowns again with St. Hill reeling in a 24-yard pass from Saunders, and then Saunders added a two-yard plunge for a score on their next possession.
A Richard Nase 12-yard touchdown run would bring PV within a touchdown before the half, but that's the closest they would get the rest of the way.
The Jim Thorpe defense came to play in the second half, holding the Panthers scoreless. Good teams always are able to make adjustments at half time and that's exactly what the Olympians were able to do.
"We went to a five-man front in the second half to get some more pressure on Ferryman and Nase and our kids made some plays," said Jim Thorpe coach Mark Rosenberger. "I'm proud of our guys for coming out and shutting them down when it really mattered in the third and fourth quarter, but we still have some work to do defensively. We didn't play our best defense tonight, so we have to get back to work next week at practice and get better."
The Jim Thorpe rushing attack also took over in the second half.
Deonte St. Hill was the man on the night for Jim Thorpe as he rushed for 219 yards on 20 carries, scoring two touchdowns on the ground and one through the air. St. Hill, Saunders, and Heller helped the Olympians outscore the Panthers 21-0 in the second half.
"It's nice having three guys in your backfield that you can depend on," said Rosenberger. "They were really keying on Saunders there in the second half, so it was time for Deonte to step up and he did in a big way. Robbie Heller also had some nice runs for us tonight. A lot of credit has to go to our lineman too because they were opening up some nice holes for those guys. We have some speed back there and we try to use it as much as we can."
Saunders also eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the night, rushing for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
With the win Jim Thorpe is now 3-1 and has put themselves in a nice position as they continue to get into the meat of the AFL schedule.
"We're happy about being 3-1 and we'll enjoy that for this weekend," said Rosenberger. "Once Monday arrives we need to get back to work and prepare for Shenandoah Valley. There's still a lot of football left to play this season."