Are the Panthers for real? Though this contest has proven in the past that it can, and it will go either way, you could tell from the moment that Le-Win stampeded out of the Panthers helmet, that they were here tonight to prove something.
Right off the bat the Panthers would defer to the 2nd half and get to work right away. After a quick 4 and out the Panthers would waste no time pounding the ball down to the 15. From there, quarterback Luke Benson, who went 4-4 with 3 touchdown passes and 120 yards, would connect with Kade Chrisman for a 15 yd touchdown. Chrisman who had a show of his own, put up 80 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns in just the 1st quarter. A missed field goal would make it only a 6-0 game. The rest of the 1st half was, unfortunately for EPC, a common trend. With 6 minutes left in the first, Sean Ormiston, who would go onto rush for 161 yds and one touchdown, would find a seam and take the ball 48 yards for a TD. With only 5 seconds left in the 1st quarter Benson would drop a 65 yard bomb in for Chrisman’s second touchdown.
It seems at one point for the Catz, no matter how good of a play Coach McNutt had drawn up, or how good of a throw QB Lane Christians would have, the Panthers had a way to stop everything. The 2nd Quarter would show life in the EPC defense, where now they were holding a tough Le-Win offense to 7,9, even 10 play drives. Unfortunately, once that felt comfortable, Le-Win would have an answer. Iowa commit, Isaiah Bruce ( 58 yds rushing, 2 tds, 1 sack) would break into the game with 6 minutes left in the half with a barreling 27 yard touchdown run. Le-Win would score once more before the half with an 8 yard pass to Cole Bardell (8yards, 1 TD). It was 36-0 in favor of the Panthers going into the half.
The second half would not be a let up for the Panthers. Instead they decided to come out with a no mercy mentality. They would control the clock for the first 3 minutes of the half, and eventually set up big man Isaiah Bruce once again for a quick 6 yard rushing TD. With nearly 7 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, return man Marey Roby caught a 35 yard punt on Le-Win's own 29 yard line. With no one within 10 yards of Roby, the kid breaks for the sideline lead by a wall of linemen. It took me back to 2008 when we would run the same return formation in Milledgeville, and fortunately for us that year it was one of many things that worked. Roby blazed down the sideline only having to juke one player, going in for a 71 yard return.
Finally, with 5 minutes left in the game, the Wildcatz caught fire and managed to march the ball 55 yards in 5 plays, lead by EPC powerhouse Logan Krell with a 10 yard rushing TD. A failed two point conversion, but EPC was on the board. Logan would end up with 16 carriers on the night for 69 yards. The Catz were also lead by Travis Kaney with 10 yards rushing and Thomas Owens with 5 yards. QB Lane Christians went 3-8 with 31 yards in the air, meeting with receivers, Jase Sheffey (5 yards) & senior Carson Clouse (26 yards). Other Panthers with honorable mentions were Ethan Fye with 25 yards and Noah White with 3 yards.
EPC plays with more heart than I know of. It didn't matter what the scoreboard said, they played each play to the whistle like it was their last. Le-Win is a powerhouse and the sky will be the limit this year, but if you take away a couple big plays, that EPC defense has linemen and some defensive backs who are monsters, and hit with no mercy. They are a thirsty team, and I am sure this bump won't define their season.
The Le-Win Panthers would end the night with an impressive 452 total yards on offense. Aside from all the stats, we all know how last season ended, but no one remembers more than the Le-Win Panthers. For future reference for upcoming opponents, this team is showing no signs of regret or remorse from last year. They have one site it seems, and that is to get back to DeKalb come November.
Next week, EPC will open up at home in Lanark and will host the Du-Pec Rivermen. Lena-Winslow will hit the road and face Amboy.