For the third straight week the Panthers hit the road for a lengthy drive to face another division foe. The Panthers had high hopes that this trip, this time to face the Schoolcraft Eagles, would finish the same as the last two….with a Panther victory.
The Panthers took the opening kickoff and proceeded to march down the field for a TD. However, in an indication of how tough yards were going to be on the night, the offense had to convert twice on 4th down. Both defenses played tough the rest of the quarter and at the end of one the score remained 8-0. However, early in the second the Watervliet offense broke through again as Panther QB Zack Pickens hit WR Byant Kieft on a 42 yard TD pass. This time the two point play was no good, but the Panthers still led 14-0. At this point the Schoolcraft offense went to work, grinding out two long drives in the quarter and mostly keeping the ball away from the potent Panther offense. With 1:27 to go in the first half the Eagles had tied the score back up at 14-14. 1:27 is a long time for the Panther offense though. After picking up a big first down to keep the drive alive, Watervliet still found themselves on their own 38 yard line with just over 10 seconds remaining in the half. Then, a little bit of magic. Pickens found senior WR Trent Boone down the right sideline for a catch and run that had to be seen to be believed as Boone caught the pass with a defender draped all over him, then somehow not only kept is balance, but shrugged off the tackle then jumped over the defender on his way to a spectacular 62 yard TD. The two-point play was good and the Panthers headed to the locker room up 22-14.
With the momentum in their favor the Panthers came out roaring in the third quarter. The defense stuffed the opening Eagle possession and the offense promptly drove down the field for a score. The defense then again made a big stop and the offense converted, this time with a pretty 72 yard screen pass from PIckens to Kieft. With the third quarter coming to an end the visitors had taken a commanding 36-14 lead.
The defense continued it’s stellar second half play, keeping Schoolcraft out of the end zone, while the offense was able to grind out some first down and milk the clock. When the 4th quarter clock read all zeroes, the Panthers had successfully completed a three game road trip for the ages, finishing with hard fought 36-14 victory.
The win also clinched the outright SAC Valley division title for Watervliet. It is the 4th Division title in the last 5 years for the Panthers.
Defensively, the ILB duo of Anthony Wade and Ryan Chisek had a big night while DB Zack Pickens added an interception (in the end zone).
Offenively, the going was tough on the ground as the Panthers were only able to muster 63 yards rushing. Bryant Kieft led the rushing attack with 6 carries for 49 yards and a TD. The passing attack had more success with Pickens going 11/18 for 349 yards and 4 TD’s. Trent Boone had 4 catches for 153 yards and a TD, while Kieft also had 4 grabs for 145 yards and two TD’s.
The Panthers (8-0, 4-0) look to complete a perfect regular season next week as the rival Coloma Comets (5-3, 2-2) make the short drive down Red Arrow Highway to invade Panther Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:00.