Indians cruise past Panther Vy.
Lehighton’s Kyle Mayernik (43) looks for running room as Panther Valley’s Jaden Shubeck fights off a block. For a photo gallery go to www.tnonline.com. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
In football, it’s always good to be a “second-half team.” The explanation is pretty simple: A team comes out of halftime both prepared and focused, and is able to finish strong in the third and fourth quarters.
For the second week in a row, Lehighton proved to be just that.
Leading by two scores at the half, the Indians put away Panther Valley by scoring three unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter to come away with a 43-14 victory. The special Thursday night game between the Indians and Panthers has been played annually to support the Bo Tkach Under the Helmet and Hat Foundation.
“We’ve talked to our kids over the last two weeks and we said Marian and Panther Valley, they have enough playmakers that if they can get something going and get some confidence early, they could be dangerous,” said Lehighton head coach Tom McCarroll. “But I do like our kids mentality. The last two weeks I’ve really challenged them at the half and they’ve responded; we cleaned things up last week and this week in the second half.”
The first half didn’t start badly for the Tribe as they raced out to a 21-0 lead.
A 37-yard hookup between Lucas Sangiuliano and Zach Hunsicker, which was set up by a PV fumble, a 12-yard pitch and catch from Sangiuliano to Ben Schatz, and a Schatz 22-yard rushing touchdown gave the Tribe its three-score advantage with 3:03 remaining in the second quarter.
A three-and-out by the Panthers late in the second quarter gave the Indians another offensive possession — its fourth of the quarter — to try and tack on some more points before the half.
Lehighton (3-2) drove the ball to the PV 26, but the Panthers were then able to come up with their play of the night with just under 25 seconds remaining. Panther Valley applied pressure and was able to get to Sangiuliano as he dropped back to pass, forcing an errant throw that fell into the hands of defensive back Shawn Hoben at the PV 5. Hoben did the rest, taking the ball to the house to make it 21-8 at the half after a successful Panthers two-point conversion.
“One step at a time, keep moving up the ladder, we’re getting better every week, and I’m proud of our kids for that,” said Panthers head coach Rick Jones. “That play, the interception return by Hoben right before the half, that excited the team and it was a great play.
“Look, it’s a process, we played a better football team tonight. The last few weeks we’ve been playing some tough teams, but the fact is we’re getting better.”
Whatever momentum the Panthers had going into the half was quickly stifled after Lehighton started with good field position at the PV 38 following a nice kickoff return. On the Tribe’s first offensive play of the second half, Hunter Crum took a jet sweep hand off and went 38 yards into the end zone.
A Schatz 37-yard reception from Sangiuliano on Lehighton’s next possession made it 36-8. A Panther Valley fumble on the ensuing kickoff setup a six-play 45-yard drive that ended in a Sangiuliano five-yard keeper to make is 43-8.
The size and mismatches of the Lehighton receiving group in Hunsicker (6-1, 180), Crum (6-1, 190) and Schatz (6-2, 215) against the Panthers defensive backs opened up a lot space on the offensive side of the ball, whether it was in the passing or rushing game. Pair that with Sangiuliano’s ability to run and move fluidly in the pocket, and it made it tough for the PV defense to match up.
“Lucas is very elusive, and he can extend a lot of plays, and then we know we have some playmakers on the outside that are tough,” said McCarroll. “We have a good group there, and we try to spread the ball around, find the mismatches and take what defenses give us and find those matchups that are favorable for us.”
The Panthers were able to add a second score in the fourth quarter in mercy rule time on a Tremaine Ervine hard-fought 25-yard run.
SLIPPERY SANGIULIANO ... The Indians signal caller had a big night. Sangiuliano threw for 158 yards and three scores, and also rushed for 70 yards and a score.
SCORING MACHINE ... After throwing for a touchdown, rushing for a touchdown and hauling in a touchdown reception last week against Marian, Ben Schatz once again didn’t disappoint. This week, he caught two TD passes and rushed for a score.