Editor’s Note: The undefeated Panther 120 team will play for the championship against the Northwestern Lehigh Tigers at Northern Lehigh High School, 1 Bulldog Lane, Slatington, Pa., this Sunday, Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. Click here for the Facebook event.
Since there was no scoring, there was also no playoff game for the rookie flag division Oct. 20. That left the three other divisions eligible for them. Two of the three remaining Panther divisions qualified, with the third one–the 100s–just missing out by way of a tiebreaker. The games took place at Southern Lehigh on a brisk fall morning.
Competitive Flag Division
The Southern Lehigh defense stacked 11 players near the line of scrimmage and created difficulty for the Panther offense to move the ball. Coach Greg did make some adjustments to the offense, but with that much of a crowd near the line running lanes were scarce or nonexistent. Despite stellar defensive efforts from Ricky Favere with six “tackles,” five of which went for loss, and Zachary Henn with five tackles including a 4th down stop, the Spartans jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead. Their second score just before halftime was assisted by a generous home field spot when their ball carrier was clearly stopped short of the mark by Xander Farkas (who had three other stops in the game) on 4th down. The officials drew the ire of the crowd for that and several non-called penalties like tackling and a missed but very obvious pass interference. The Spartans capitalized on that momentum and added another score in the third quarter as their stingy defense frustrated the Panthers. Taylor Rohn who led the offense with 74 yards eventually broke free for a long touchdown run, but by then time was running short for a comeback and the game ended with a 19-6 final score. Coach Greg said after the game that everybody played hard but they didn’t play their best. There should be some turnover on the team as a number of players are going to move up to the tackle division, but players like Jayden Reifinger and Andrew Hastie look like they will bring some of their speed and talent with them next season.
120 Pound Division
The expectations were high for this undefeated squad heading into this matchup with Notre Dame, and they certainly lived up to them. The Panthers did get off to a slow start but began to show their championship potential as they started to build momentum midway through the first quarter. The defense created two turnovers, both fumble recoveries, one of which led to a short Constantine Donahue rushing touchdown. A few plays later he struck again on a long punt return for a touchdown and the Panthers took a two-score lead. Heading into the second quarter the aggressive and opportunistic defense created another turnover on an interception by Jack Robertson, and continued to stymie Norte Dame’s Young Crusaders offense as they went into halftime with a 13-0 lead. The third quarter saw more of the same strong defense force two more turnovers, a fumble recovery by Andrew Gilbert and an interception by Peter Albano, while on offense Constantine Donahue added another 36-yard rushing touchdown to boost the lead. Landon Beckowski added a 49-yard rushing score and the defense held on to the shutout to cement the Panther 29-0 victory. Statistically the defensive leaders were Landon Beckowski with six tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack, followed closely by Nathaniel Snyder who had six tackles. Andrew Gilbert chipped in three tackles and the fumble recovery. Offensively, Constantine Donahue totaled 73 yards and 2 scores and Landon Beckowski had 64 yards and one score. All in all the team played very well in all three phases of the game: the offense with three touchdowns, the defense with several sacks and takeaways, plus a special teams touchdown. All of that combined contributed to a 29-0 victory for the Panthers. In my first ever player interview, I asked Constantine Donahue about fielding a bouncing punt in traffic, and he said “whenever I can get the ball in my hands, I take the opportunity to score.” You certainly do. Coach Schneider said “the team continues to grow as a team and a family. If someone makes a mistake, the guys pick him up.” I must say I like his coaching style. Coach Brown said “it was a great team effort” that gave the 120s a “confidence boost.” He also cautioned, however, that “the games get tougher every week.”