Panthers ground out victory
bob ford/times news Panther Valley's Kyle Ferryman (24) leaves his feet to intercept a pass intended for Jim Thorpe's PJ Johnson. The Panthers' MikeWeaver (10) is also defending on the play.
Panther Valley's gameplan was a simple one.
Unfortuntaley for visiting Jim Thorpe, it wasn't simple to stop.
With a decided advantage in the trenches, the Panthers used a solid ground attack Saturday night to earn a hard-fought 21-6 Anthracite Football League victory.
"Our staff put together a great gameplan and our kids executed it," said Lon Hazlet, who earned his first win as Panther Valley head coach. "I think we won the battle up front and that's the first time this year we've been more physical with somebody in the trenches.
"Our guys ran hard and our offensive line opened a lot of holes. I don't know how many yards we had rushing but I'm sure it was quite a few."
While the Panthers (1-3) ran for 278 yards in the contest, it wasn't the number of yards they managed but how they gained them.
With ball control a priority, PV finished with 69 carries compared to just four passing attempts.
The hosts also managed to keep drives going. In third-and-short situations (five yards or less), the Panthers converted on five of their 11 opportunites. The six times they didn't convert they ended up moving the chains on fourth down.
"Give credit to Panther Valley," said Olympian mentor Mark Rosenberger. "They played a great game. They were much more physical than us and that's the bottom line. They beat us up on both sides of the ball and they did what they had to to win a football game."
Doing most of the damage for the Panthers was Rich Smith. The junior ran for 153 yards and three touchdowns on 27 attempts.
"Our line just demolished their defensive line," said Smith. "We took it to them tonight. That was our main goal for this week. Our offensive line was to take it to their defense. We knew their weaknesses, and we wanted to exploit them."
Smith opened the game's scoring on the final play of the first quarter when he broke free over the middle and raced 61 yards for a touchdown. The long run was one of just six PV plays that gained 10 yards or more.
Another of those "longer" gains - a 12-yard run by Smith - on the Panthers' next possession started a 12-play, 57-yard drive the ended with another score. Smith bulled his way over from three yards out to up the margin to 15-0.
"He's just a hard-nosed kid," said Hazlet of Smith. "He's blue-collar and he's tough. He runs downhill and he's hard to bring down. He never stops running. He got off to a good start tonight and had a great night."
Thorpe (0-4) may not have started well, but its first half ended on an upnote.
Olympian quarterback Pat Duvigneaud went deep over the middle to PJ Johnson, who hauled in the pass and sprinted to the end zone for a 63-yard touchdown that cut the gap to 15-6 with 13 seconds left until halftime.
But any momentum that score may have brought the visitors was quickly erased at the outset of the third quarter.
Panther Valley received the second half kickoff and marched 65 yards in 16 plays, running off over eight minutes on the clock, to extend the lead to 21-6.
Included in the drive was a successful fake punt that netted a first down.
"We stopped them and put them in fourth and short and they made a great call with the fake punt," said Rosenberger. "That put momentum right back on their side. It was a gutsy call on their part. If they don't make it we get the ball inside the 50-yard line and we're in business."
"We worked on that (fake) punt all week," said Hazlet, who also received 104 yards rushing from Mike Weaver. "We thought we needed to come out and score. We were just waiting for the right opportunity to run it."
The Olympians couldn't muster much after that.
Four more possessions either ended on downs or turnovers
"We made mistakes," said Rosenberger. "We played poorly offensively and on defense this week. We had chances to make plays in the second half, but we just didn't do it."