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 Tigers Prove They Are Kings of the Jungle This Year

 

August 29, 2007 - Hagerstown scored three times in the first half against Knightstown last Friday night, and all three touchdowns came on one-play drives. The Panthers never escaped that 19-0 hole and went on to suffer a disappointing 35-0 setback at Hagerstown.

Coach Bob Prescott’s team went into the game with high expectations after their 13-7 season-opening victory over a highly-regarded Centerville team. But the Panthers weren’t the same fiery squad they were during the season opener. Hagerstown took advantage of some pretty big mistakes in rolling to their biggest margin of victory over Knightstown in nearly 20 years.

Hagerstown put three touchdowns on the board without mounting a scoring drive. Two key Panther mistakes and a defensive breakdown allowed the Tigers to score three times while running just three plays. The Tigers blocked a Knightstown punt in the first quarter, giving them the ball at the Panther 22-yard line. It took them just one play to score when senior quarterback Chad Lieberman hit receiver Chris Doyen with a 22-yard scoring strike to make it 7-0.

Following a Panther punt, the Tigers set up business at their own 34 late in the first quarter. On the first play, Lieberman handed off to Doyen on a counter, and the fleet-footed veteran ran an end-around the left side, bolting untouched down the sideline for a 66-yard touchdown run. That made it 13-0 with 1:11 to play in the first half.

On the ensuing kickoff, Knightstown fumbled the ball away, setting up the Tigers at the Panther 11 with just 1:04 on the clock.

For the third straight touchdown they needed just one play. Lieberman rolled left, then turned back right and threw to a wide open tight end Neil Adkins, who held his block momentarily before slipping into the secondary all alone.

With 1:24 left in the half, the Panthers were still in the game and trailed just 7-0. One minute later, Hagerstown had scored two more times and bolted to a 19-0 halftime lead.

With quarterback Joe Haase and fullback Trey McColley nursing injuries on the sideline, Knightstown had been unable to get anything going offensively. On the defensive side, the team didn’t have the same fire they had shown the week before.

“We had an identity crisis Friday night,” Prescott said. “We were without Trey and Joe, and I don’t think we had anyone step up and lead the team. I didn’t think we had any fight or emotion to us. It was a very tough game that we’ll just have to take as a learning experience and realize that it can’t happen again.”

The Panthers had played pretty well through most of the first half. Defensively, they were forcing Hagerstown to punt. Offensively, the Panthers struggled to find any holes in the Hagerstown defense. The Tigers were bunching defenders at the line of scrimmage and blitzing linebackers at the corners, knowing Haase and McColley were just bystanders.

“We play who they put on the field,” Hagerstown Coach John Fallis said. “They had some issues with injuries to key people, but that didn’t change what we did defensively. It just made it a lot easier.” Prescott said the Panther team on the field made it easier for Hagerstown as well.

“Our tackling wasn’t as good as it could have been, and we just weren’t ready to play football,” Prescott said. “Emotionally, physically and mentally we weren’t sharp. Friday night there was a young Knightstown team on that field with no identity. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

“And when you get right down to it, the game had no meaning,” Prescott said. “It wasn’t a conference game. It wasn’t one of our trophy games. It was just a loss that we will rebound from.”

There were some highlights in the game for the Panthers, although they were few and far between. Hagerstown moved the ball to midfield on the game’s opening possession, but Aaron Forshey sacked Lieberman on the next play. After another loss on a running play, Lieberman dropped back to pass again and was drilled by Zach Sanders as he released the ball. The incomplete pass forced a 4th-and-19, and the Tiger punt fell out of bounds at the 50-yard line.

That set Knightstown up at midfield for its first possession, but the team was unable to seize the momentum. Quarterback Brice Biehl was sacked on third down, forcing a punt that would prove to be disastrous. The Tigers blocked the kick and set up house at the Panther 22-yard line.

They needed just one play to hit paydirt at the five-minute mark of the first quarter.

But the Panthers played head-to-head with the Tigers through most of the first half. Sacks were recorded by Justin Sanders and Biehl, and offensively, Biehl hit Brett Morris for a 10-yard pass that garnered a first down in the second quarter.

But every Knightstown drive fizzled, and Hagerstown finally took advantage by scoring those two late touchdowns at the 1:11 and 0:57 marks of the second quarter. Those two touchdowns just 14 seconds apart changed a close game into a blowout and seemed to take away any fire the Panthers brought to the field.

The Panthers did have a nice drive in the third quarter, highlighted by a 23-yard run by freshman Lane Fields that moved the ball into Hagerstown territory. Zach Sanders ran for another first down, and Biehl ran a keeper 17 yards to set up first down at the Tiger 12-yard line. But that drive ended on downs at the same spot.

Hagerstown added a field goal and two more late touchdowns to close out a 35-0 win, their biggest over the Panthers since the 1990 season.

“If you take away the two touchdowns late in the first half, it’s a 7-0 game and we are still in the game,” Prescott said. “But those things happen, and they happen to young teams who aren’t prepared to play. We will make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

 

 

 

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