Panthers Pounce Early, Hold On To Clobber Crusaders

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(File Photo)

The Saucon Valley Panthers snapped a two-game slide on Friday night with a big win over the Notre Dame Crusaders.  The Panthers jumped out in front of Notre Dame early, and were able to hold off a late surge by the Crusaders.  It was a game of momentum swings that, once again, came down to the last minutes.

The two teams exchanged opening possessions, but the Panthers lit the scoreboard first with just over six minutes remaining in the first quarter.  Saucon Valley quarterback Dante Mahaffey capped a six-play drive with a 50-yard touchdown run.  Mahaffey received a good kickout block from Evan Deily at the line of scrimmage and a good downfield block from Kevin Schoch on his way to the end zone.  Alex Magnotta’s PAT hit the target and the Panthers opened a 7-0 lead.

The Saucon defense held Notre Dame to a single first down and forced a punt.  The Panthers took possession at their own 44-yardline and three plays later Mahaffey kept on option to burst 39-yards for another score with 1:44 left in the first quarter.  Magnotta’s extra-point was good to give the Panthers a 14-0 advantage.

Two plays into Notre Dame’s next possession Panther safety Jiziah Davis stripped the ball from Notre Dame’s Conner Aquino.  Mahaffey alertly recovered the fumble giving Saucon a first down at the Crusader 48-yardline.  Eight plays later Braydyn Lugardo followed his blockers and powered in on 1st & Goal from the 9-yardline for a touchdown.  Magnotta did his thing and with 8:34 until halftime Saucon extended to a 21-0 lead.

The Crusader offense started to get traction and marched down to the Panther 38-yardline.  However, on 3rd & 9 the Panthers Kevin Schoch picked off Connor Aquino’s pass that was intended for Matt Frauen at the 4-yardline.  Schoch returned the interception out to the 30-yardline.  The Saucon Valley offense moved the ball into Crusader territory, but the Panthers were forced to punt.  Saucon’s Evan Deily, however, stripped the Crusader punt returner of the ball and Damian Garcia recovered the fumble at the 18-yardline.  Unfortunately, for the Panthers however, on 2nd & Goal from just inside the 1-yardline with :19 seconds left in the first half, Saucon Valley’s Dante Mahaffey lost the handle on the football as he was crossing the goal line.  Notre Dame recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback.  The teams hit the locker room at intermission with the Panthers leading 21-0.

(File Photo)

Notre Dame came out for the second half on fire.  In less than two minutes they finally got on the scoreboard when Andrew Darno hooked up with Christian Greggo on a 15-yard touchdown pass.  In six plays the Crusaders quickly cut their deficit to 21-7.

Notre Dame seemed to generate a little more momentum when they held the Panthers to a three-and-out punt.  However, a roughing the kicker penalty against the Crusaders on Alex Magnotta’s punt gave the ball back to the Panthers at the Crusader 46-yardline.  Nine plays later the “L-Train” rolled into the station.  Braydyn Lugardo, who ran for 177 yards on 39 carries, powered in from the 5-yardline for his second touchdown of the night.  Magnotta’s PAT was blocked by the Crusaders, but the Panthers built a 27-7 lead with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter.

The Crusaders, once again, tapped their quick-strike offense.  In just seven plays, Notre Dame moved from their own 38-yardline for a touchdown with a 25-yard strike from Darno to Derek Berlitz down the middle of the field.  The extra-point was good and with :44 seconds left in the third quarter the Crusaders trailed 27-14.

With the Notre Dame offense catching fire, the Panthers had to answer.  And, answer they did.  Saucon Valley engineered a 15-play drive that took almost eight minutes off the game clock.  Lugardo was good for a 4-yard touchdown score to cap the drive.  Magnotta’s point-after gave the Panthers a 34-14 cushion with 4:51 left to play.

Notre Dame made things interesting with their next score coming in just :32 seconds.  After the Crusaders’ Matt Frauen returned the Panther kickoff all the way back to the Panther 30-yardline they hit pay dirt only two plays later.  The Crusaders Andrew Darno scampered in from six yards out.

With 4:19 to go and trailing 34-21, Notre Dame’s onside-kick attempt failed thanks to the Panthers Eternal Aris recovering the attempt.  Saucon Valley took possession at their own 41-yardline.  Saucon pounded the ball picking up three first downs to ice the game at 34-21.  It was a great win for Saucon Valley over a very good football team.  With the victory, the Panthers (6-3) moved into the top spot in the Colonial League East while Notre Dame (6-3) fell behind the Panthers.  More importantly, Saucon put themselves in good position to host a District XI playoff game.  With a win over Palisades on Friday night, the Panther seniors will get one more game on their home field.

(File Photo)

Panther Flash Stats:

  • Saucon Valley had 367 total yards of offense.
  • The Panthers had the ball for 36 minutes while Notre Dame possessed for 12.
  • The Saucon Valley offense rolled up 25 first-downs.
  • The Saucon Valley defense had two takeaways.
  • Braydyn Lugardo bulled his way for the Panthers with 39 carries for 177 yards and 3 TD’s.
  • Dante Mahaffey had 19 carries for 114 yards and 2 TD’s.

Up Next: Saucon Valley (6-3) will travel to Palisades (2-7) on Friday for their regular season finale. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Good luck Panthers, the Source is with you!

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