In stark contrast to the rest of the season, last week’s slate of games kicked off to a very soggy start. That, however, did not deter the players or fans from showing up and playing hard or cheering on the Panthers in their last week of regular season games. I would personally like to thank the Reifinger family for allowing me to use their shelter to stay dry on the sideline. Also due to the extremely inclement weather I decided to leave my camera at home, and chose to work with my phone. This may create less quality still images, but will allow me to add a new feature, one we may choose to continue moving forward: video highlights.
The first soggy game featured the Rookie Flag team, and WOW, what a performance they put on for the fans in attendance. I will iterate before I type that this is NOT a misprint, they scored 17 (seventeen) touchdowns! Everybody who played in the game got at least one touchdown, and some had two, but they literally ran all over the Pirates on their home turf. The unstoppable offense was led by #2 Caius Wagner and his 120 yards and three scores on three carries, while five other players posted 80 yards and two touchdowns on two carries. That list includes #1 Carter Greim, #3 Hudson Gonzales, #6 Ethan Nelson, #10 Caden Gaffney and #14 Bryce Johnston. In this instance, it’s a shame they do not allow a playoff for this division, because I am certain these boys would be in it with a very good chance to take home a championship. They had an outstanding season. Congratulations to them for their stellar play, and a huge thank you to the coaching staff for all their hard work during the year.
The second soggy game saw the Competitive Flag team take the turf. Coming into this game the Panthers had won two of their last three games and had been playing very well. They were looking to close out the season continuing that trend. The game got off to a fast and furious start with #12 Jaden Reifinger totaling 70 yards and a touchdown on two carries, which was immediately answered by the Pirates on a two-play drive on their first possession. The Panthers got the ball back and took a quick lead, this time courtesy of a 62-yard touchdown run by #33 Hudson Mertz. The Pirates answered again, tying the game, and both teams scored yet again before the half to enter the intermission deadlocked at 21. Then in the third quarter, the Panther defense went to work swashbuckling and shutting down the Pirates with inspired efforts by #15 Nicholas Ubert, who notched 10 flag pulls in the game, and #26 Luke Peters who had five second half flag pulls. In addition to his effort on defense, Luke also scored the game-winning touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to seal a 27-21 victory for the Panthers. The offensive leaders for this game were #12 Jaden Reifinger (three carries, 140 yards, two touchdowns and one pass reception for two yards), #33 Hudson Mertz (two for two passing for two yards, two carries, 70 yards and one touchdown) and #26 Luke Peters (one carry for the 62-yard game-winning score). This season featured a tough start for this group who rebounded very well, winning three of their last four games, and they played some good football down the stretch. We are very proud of the boys for persevering and overcoming the obstacles they faced, and appreciate all the coaches for their time and effort during the season.
The precipitation started to ease up a little bit for the Junior Varsity squad as they came out for their game. Sitting at 4-5 on the season, this team certainly played better than their record reflected, and they were eager to prove that. The Pirates started the game on offense, and were quickly forced to punt, and likewise with the Panthers on their first possession of the contest. The Pirates then got the ball and ran out the clock in the first quarter, but scored on that drive early in the 2nd taking a 6-0 lead over the visiting Panthers. The next offensive drive saw Saucon chewing the clock and moving the ball, but ultimately running out of time going into the intermission facing that same 6-0 deficit. Starting the second half with the football, the Panther offense went to work, and on the fifth play of the drive hit paydirt courtesy of a flashy #3 Taylor Rohn 47-yard touchdown dash. The point after try was no good, and the game was tied at 6. The two teams exchanged drives that ended in punts, and Saucon started the fourth quarter with the ball. Three plays into the drive they fumbled, and the crowd could sense a possible momentum swing, but two plays later the Panthers pillaged and plundered the ball right back from the Pirates for a fumble recovery of their own. Starting on the Pirates’ 29-yard line the Panthers got runs of 21, 7 and then the go-ahead 1-yard score, all from #20 Grayson Schmell. The defense swabbed the deck for the rest of the game, keeping the Pirates at bay, and the Panthers came out with a treasured 12-6 victory. Offensively, the Panthers were led by #20 Grayson Schmell’s 20 carry, 140-yard, one touchdown performance, and #3 Taylor Rohn’s 84 yards and one score on five carries. Defensively, the Panthers had solid performances from #38 Ricky Favere with five tackles two for loss, and #3 Taylor Rohn’s three tackles with a fumble recovery. This team will face some changes in the offseason, and is likely to be without some key contributors who will be moving up to varsity, but the core of this team has been together for at least three seasons and has some very capable players in it. Along with the addition of some graduating flag players this team should be ready to take on all comers next season. Thank you to the coaches and the players for the time you put in and for all your hard work this season.
The Varsity team finished off the action on what had become a warm and partly sunny yet breezy afternoon. With the Panthers pretty much locked into the fourth and final playoff seed, this game didn’t affect their position in the standings. They would neither move up with a win, or slide down with a loss. The Panthers started the game with the ball, but after a short drive had to punt away. The Pirates used their drive to devour the clock, using all the rest of the time in the first quarter, but scored a touchdown two plays into the second quarter. The Panthers blocked the extra point attempt and immediately answered that score with a #36 Jackson Albert 57-yard score. With #10 Peter Albano kicking the point after, the Panthers had an 8-6 lead. The Pirates again ate up the clock and eventually scored going into halftim,e but with another blocked point after try they only led 12-8 at the intermission. In the third quarter things got dicey. The Pirates started with possession of the ball, and sustained another long drive, however this one came with multiple controversial calls. Twice the Pirates were given first downs on fourth down conversions they appeared not to make. The second one–a crucial fourth and 1 at the 2-yard line, is posted below, and the call is perplexing on many levels. First, the Panther defense had the surge and initially stalled the runner for a loss, but the whistles were not blown. While surging forward the Pirates appear to gain some ground, however, again before the whistles blew, #18 Hector Mateo emerges from the bottom of the pile with the football. The play was not blown dead, and even the forward momentum kept the runner short of the stick. Add in the turnover before the whistle and you would think the Panthers should have the football. However, despite all that, the officials gave the Pirates a first down and goal to go from the one. A touchdown followed and the momentum that the Panthers should have had from a tremendous goal line stand was given away. The Panther offense fumbled on the next possession while the Pirates slowly walked the plank to a 20-8 victory as their next drive utilized all the rest of the time on the game clock. As it stands the Panthers finish the season at 7-3 and due to a tiebreaker are the fourth seed in the playoffs. The boys have been hard at work preparing for their opponent this weekend, the Southern Lehigh Spartans. I asked Coach Schneider for his thoughts and he said “it’s going to be a tough game.” Since they are facing the top-ranked team in the division “we have to be ready for them,” he added. The game will be played in Southern Lehigh Living Memorial Park on Rt. 309 in Coopersburg this Saturday, Nov. 2 at 3 p.m. Please come and show your support and help the Panthers defend their championship.
Saucon Source thanks Bucks Run Oil LLC for helping to underwrite the publication of this year’s Little Panther Rundown. Bucks Run Oil is a family-owned home heating oil and diesel supply business located in Lower Saucon Township. To learn more about them, please visit their website and follow Bucks Run Oil on Facebook and Instagram.