Written by Joe Hubbs. Media by Matt Miller.
A run heavy game in which neither team could avoid mistakes, the Panthers came back in the fourth quarter on Saturday Sept. 27 to beat the Knights 23-14.
The Panthers received to start the game and put together a quick nine play drive for 66 yards ending with a Nathan Callaway one-yard touchdown run. Neither team would score again until the second quarter when Sam Northey broke for a 26 yard touchdown run to put the Panthers up 13-0. The Panthers continued to rush very well throughout the game for a strong redzone presence, but on several occasions a penalty or a bad snap pushed them back, keeping them from reaching the endzone.
On defense, the Panthers dealt with an unusual Martin Luther single wing offense. Because of the heavy run formation with confusing spinning action in the backfield by Martin Luther’s quarterback and running backs, the Panthers used five linebackers on the field at one time and filling the box with eight defenders. For the majority of the game, the Panthers defense performed well with this defense, several linebackers piling up tackles. Nick Morrow again finished with 11 tackles for the Panthers, Johnny Uperesa finished with seven tackles and one sack, and Kirk Pierce made nine tackles on the game. Robert Deering, a junior who had yet to see a lot of action until this game was also a force at middle linebacker with nine tackles and a sack. The Panthers shutdown Martin Luther’s single wing attack until 37 seconds left in the first half when the Knights split out into a twins look on the right side of the field and Matt Olsen converted a nine yard touchdown pass to Dan Rodewald which caught the Panthers secondary off-guard. The score put the Knights down only 13-7 going into half.
Martin Luther kept their momentum coming out of the locker room to begin a big drive down the field in the second half. A 45-yard rush by Olsen almost turned into the second touchdown for the Knights, but Cory Snyder, the Panthers sophomore safety, cleaned up the play with a phenomenal open field tackle. Snyder would finish the day with 10 tackles and an interception; however, his heroics could not stop the drive. Although Martin Luther had great field position, the Panthers forced a third down and almost sacked the quarterback for a 13-yard loss, but the refs faulted the Panthers with a 15-yard facemask penalty. Instead of a 4th and 13, the penalty gave the Knights a 1st and five, and Olsen ran for an easy five-yard touchdown. Martin Luther took their first lead of the game 14-13.
After a 22-yard kick return by Jacob Tibbetts, the Panthers started their own drive. E.A. Northey broke for a 39-yard rush to get Greenville into the redzone, but a false start penalty pushed them back five yards. Unable to regain the ground, the Panthers settled for a 23-yard field goal by Josh Morgan to regain the lead 16-14.
The fourth quarter brought anguish to both teams. At 8:03 the Panthers began a drive with an 11-yard run by E.A. Callaway took the ball for the next four plays, accruing eight, nine, 15, and 14 yards respectively. A Greenville fumble at Martin Luther’s six yard line pushed the Panthers back again, but this time they missed the field goal and a golden opportunity to take a two possession lead. A mixture of Callaway’s hard nosed running and a growing sense of urgency must have fueled the Panthers defense however, because on the next series they brought the hits. Snyder sniped out Josh Rathje after an 11-yard pass to save another drive, and the linebackers went into overdrive. Robert Deering sacked Olsen for a six-yard loss, and Joey Silva followed with a tackle of Rodewald in the backfield for a one-yard loss. A questionable pass interference call gave the Knights a first down, but on the very next play the Samoan Sensation Johnny Uperesa sacked Olsen, forcing a fumble, which was recovered by sophomore defensive end, Lincoln Johnson at the Knights 31 yard line. Able to overcome two false start penalties, the Panthers scored on a 10-yard rush by E.A. Northey, to extend the lead to 23-14. Up by two possessions, the Panthers took the win to increase their season record to 3-1.
The Panthers bread and butter, triple option offense is working tremendously with newcomers Callaway and the Northey brothers. Callaway finished the game averaging six yards per carry for a total of 163 yards and one touchdown. E.A. Northey rushed for 75 yards and one touchdown, and Sam Northey finished with 58 yards on the ground and one touchdown. Heading into the meat of the schedule, the Panthers have a 1:00 game against MacMurray at home on Saturday. MacMurray is currently 1-2, but have lost a couple of close games. After allowing 114 yards on 12 penalties, the Panthers look to clean up their game and continue their undefeated record in conference.