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Pana Panthers tame Bulldogs, 28-3

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(PANA) — Joel Deere, number 5 and Monte Weddle, 33, wrap up Staunton Bulldog runner Jacob Dillon, 26, during the Pana- Staunton football game Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. The Pana defense held the Bulldogs to 139 total offensive yards in Pana’s 28-3 South Central Conference victory. Dillion ended up with just seven yards on the ground, being stopped for losses on four plays. However, he caught four passes and ended up with 51 yards receiving.

Tom Latonis Breeze-Courier Writer

(PANA) — A stingy defense along with the running prowess of seniors Max Lynch and Evan Swisher, led the Pana Panthers to a 28-3 win over the visiting Staunton Bulldogs on Friday night at Brummett Field in South Central Conference action. Pana improves to 3-1 on the season.

Pana’s defense allowed just 139 total yards for the Bulldogs while they piled up 426 yards of total offense. The Panthers have not allowed a touchdown in 10 quarters of play and the field goal Friday night is the only points the opposition has scored in that period.

Quarterback Lynch had 20 carries for 254 yards rushing and three touchdowns while running back Swisher gained 105 yards on 15 carries and had one score.

Statistically, Pana had the advantage over the Bulldogs, but the visitors made the game closer than the score might indicate.

“Staunton came out with a tremendous effort on their part,” Pana Head Football Coach Trevor Higgins said. “Their coaching staff had them ready to play and had a good game plan.”

But the two-headed monster of Lynch and Swisher proved to be too much in the final analysis.

“Obviously, our run game was dominant again. I know Max (Lynch) gets all the yards, but our ‘O’-line opened up some amazing holes tonight – some of which we followed some we didn’t – and when we follow those holes, we are a lot better,” the coach said.

In the passing department, Lynch was 6-of-16 for 44 yards with one interception. It’s a portion of the offense Higgins knows needs improvement.

“The second half, I wanted to throw the ball because our pass game has just been awful,” Higgins stated flatly. “We either over throw it or we drop the ball when it’s perfectly thrown to us. I wanted game situations for our pass game. I probably should have come out and kept running the ball, but later on in the season, we’re going to have to a better pass game, so I wanted to work on it.”

Swisher, a 6-foot, 200 pound senior, broke the 100-yard barrier in rushing Friday night and had a touchdown.

“He’s a good, power runner inside the tackles. He doesn’t have the breakaway speed like Austin Henschen did last year, but as you can see, he’ll go out and get 40, 50 yards for you,” said Higgins. “He comes out, works hard in practice everyday. Plays hard. Probably the player of the game every week because he’s on the defensive side he’s all over the football. Just a great kid, great captain, great leader for our team. Glad he got some of the yards he did for our team tonight.”

Pana did have several bad snaps on offense – six, in fact – and is something the coach says they will work on in practice.

“We really haven’t had an issue with snaps, we’ve had a few here and there, but never this consistent,” Higgins said. “That’s just something you’ve got to keep repping and hope that doesn’t happen again.”

One of those bad snaps came on the first play of the game. A low snap to Lynch, the quarterback tried to pick the ball up, but instead, kicked it and the Bulldogs recovered inside Pana territory. They could not convert on a fourth down so Pana got the ball back. The Panthers then went 59 yards on 15 plays, culminating with a three-yard run from

Lynch for the score with 5:06 left in the first. Sam Sims was perfect on the extra point try, and it was 7-0, Pana.

Staunton got on the scoreboard with 1:34 to play in the period as Cole Aberrle booted a 28-yard field goal to make it a 7-3 game.

The ensuing kick-off had the Panthers starting on offense at their own 29-yard-line and on the first play from scrimmage, Lynch took the snap and swept right, out-running the defense for a 71-yard touchdown scamper with 1:24 showing to make it a 14-3 contest.

In the second quarter, Pana put together a 10-play, 91- yard drive for their next score with 4:34 left in the half. The run dominated this drive with Swisher picking up 12 and 35 yards on two carries. Swisher also plunged in from a yard out for the score and the Sims extra point made it a 21-3 Pana lead.

The Bulldogs put together a nice drive on their next series, working the ball down to the Pana 4. But on the next play, the Bulldogs fumbled and there to pounce on the ball was Cameron Cook for Pana at their own 9. Next play, it was the Lynch running show as he shed three tacklers on his way to a 91-yard run for the goal line. With the extra point it was a 28-3 lead for Pana with 32 seconds to go before halftime.

The second half was scoreless and the Panthers came away with their third straight victory.

Pana will now take the long trip to Piasa next Friday night, Sept. 23, 2022, to face the Southwestern Birds in another South Central Conference game. Kick-off is set for 7:00 p.m.

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