The Panthers opened up the 2018 campaign Friday as old SAC South rival Lawton visited Panther Stadium. With only 5 starters (3 of whom have changed positions) back from last seasons 11-1 team, there were a lot of questions coming into this particular opener. Some of those questions were answered early. Senior QB Garrett Matthews lit it up early in his first career start. Matthews hit paydirt on TD passes of 58, 77, 78, and 8 yards all in the first quarter. Senior WR Jakob Aldrich was on the other end of three of those tosses, while Senior WR Krix Lenox nabbed the fourth.
The Panther Defense was also stout early, shutting down the Lawton defense through the first quarter and a half. The Blue Devils did fine some offense in the second quarter, finding paydirt twice, but the Panthers also added two more touchdowns, one a pass to Senior WR Tristan Schultz and another on a Matthews 1 yd. run. As the teams went to the locker room at halftime, the home team was in command up 42-14.
With the game in hand the Panthers were able to stay healthy in the second half while adding one more score. The final score on the night was 50-28.
Matthews was stellar in his first start, throwing for 319 yards and 5 TD’s while also rushing for 83 yards and another score. Aldrich hauled in 7 Matthews offerings for 174 yards and 3 TD’s, while Lenox had two catches for 88 yards and a score, and Schultz added 3 for 57. Sophomore RB Don Smith also made a big splash in his varsity debut. Smith trucked it 18 times for 137 yards and a TD.
Defensively, the d-line played very well. Senior tackles, Eric Kehrer and Derrick Burkhardt, along with defensive ends Junior Jimmy Collis and Sophomore Dylan Lawson controlled the line of scrimmage most of the night. Senior LB Allen Chapin and Sophomore Isiah Yazel also played will defensively while Aldrich added an interception to his stat line as well.
The win gives the Panthers (1-0, 0-0) their 4th straight season opening victory. 2017 Division 7 Runner-up Saugatuck (1-0, 0-0) visits Panther Stadium next Friday. Kickoff is set for 7:00.