Facing a league rival on Friday, Sept. 21, at Norton, the Panthers set the tone early in the game with impressive, quick scoring. The Panthers dominated the game, as they defeated the Bluejays 56-20.
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Phillipsburg began their opening drive with a pass attempt over the middle to junior Austin Miller, who mishandled the pass. Following several runs by seniors Nathan Moon and Treylan Gross, senior Trey Sides completed a 33-yard pass to sophomore Ty Sides for a touchdown. Senior kicker Jonathan Hunnacutt completed the PAT, making the score 7-0.
Following a return to the 26-yard line, the Bluejays failed to put together a drive and were forced to punt.
Running a no-huddle offense, the Panthers took over at the Bluejay 43-yard line. Senior Cháron Ellis moved the ball to 37 followed by a 12-yard pass completion from Sides to Gross. The Panthers committed their first and only turnover of the night when Gross fumbled the ball on the next drive and the ball was recovered by the Bluejays.
The Bluejays, however, failed to convert on the turnover when on a third and eight, Hunnacutt got into the backfield for a quarterback sack.
Following a fair catch at the 39, the Panthers scored quickly on their next drive when Ty Sides followed the upfield blocking of senior Kasen Keeten and junior Tyce Jerby into the endzone for a 61-yard run. Following a successful PAT by Hunnacutt, the Panthers led 14-0.
Though the Bluejays advanced the kickoff from the two to the 24-yard line, they once again went three and out and were forced to punt, where the Panthers took over at their own 28.
In their next offensive drive, the Panthers used a variety of run and pass completions to move the ball down the field. The Panthers capped off the drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Trey Sides to Ty Sides. With another successful Hunnacutt PAT, the Panthers led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
After the kickoff was returned to the 23, the Bluejays completed a pass to junior Carter Jones to move the ball to the 30-yard line. However, defensive efforts by Panther’s Jerby and Miller, who both made tackles in the Norton backfield, forced the Bluejays to punt.
After a 17-yard punt return by Ty Sides, the Panthers set up their offence on the 33-yard line. The Panthers again relied on the running efforts of Moon and Gross and completed passes to Ellis and Sides to advance the ball to the 19-yard line. A Sides to Sides 19-yard pass resulted in the fourth touchdown of the night and successful PAT for the Panthers, setting the score at 28-0.
After advancing the kickoff to the 25-yard line, the Bluejays took to the air for a five-yard pass completion to Jones. However, the Bluejays failed to move the ball any further and again punted.
With a ten-yard punt return by Sides, the Panthers sat up their offense on the 50. Following a 13-yard run by Gross and a five-yard run by Gross, the Panthers again found themselves in the endzone with a 40-yard pass from Sides to Gross. Completing the PAT, the Panthers led 35-0.
After a touchback, Norton put together their first real drive of the game with runs by Sproul and Lively and successful pass completions to Haresnape and Wilfong. The Bluejays completed a third and ten pass attempt over the middle to Wilfong to put them in the Panther red zone. Senior Tanner Ragsdale made two tackles in the backfield to halt the advance before Ty Sides picked off a pass at the ten-yard line to end the Bluejay drive.
After a holding penalty, the Panthers were backed up to their own five-yard line. A handoff to Gross netted another Panther touchdown when the senior running back followed his lead blockers through the line and 95-yards down the field to move the score to 42-0 with 1:04 remaining in the half.
The Bluejays however would not give up as they put together a drive initiated by a Vacura run that moved the Bluejays into Panther territory. Following completed passes to Sproul and Wilfong, the Bluejays were able to put points on the board with a completed pass to Wilfong from the ten-yard line. After a failed PAT attempt, the score at half was 42-6.
To open the second half, the Bluejays returned the kickoff to the 23. After a three-yard run by Lively and two incomplete passes, the Bluejays punted.
The Panthers began their first possession of the second half at their own 42. With an incomplete pass and a small gain on a run by Moon, the Panthers went back to the air when Sides was flushed from the pocket to complete a four-yard pass to Ellis. Sides made his first punt of the night to the Bluejay 15 after the Panthers failed to secure a first down.
On the Bluejay second possession, Ragsdale dropped Lively for a loss of one. An incomplete pass brought up third and 11 for the Bluejays. Ellis nearly had a pick six when he almost intercepted the ensuing pass attempt.
After the punt, the Panthers took over on the Bluejay 45. With minimal gain on the first two attempts, Sides connected with Miller over the middle for a gain of 13 and a first down. The next play resulted in another first down when Moon moved the ball to the 11-yard line. With another positive yardage run by Moon, the Panthers were faced with a third and goal from the six. Quarterback Trey Sides followed the blocking of Gross, Sisson and Moon into the endzone, making the score 49-6 after the PAT.
After the touchback, the Bluejays completed a nine-yard pitch and catch to Wilfong, who was brought down at the 29 by Moon and Keeten. Lively then moved the ball six yards to give the Bluejays a firstdown. A pitch out to Sproul moved the ball to the 40-yard line for the Jays. The Panthers then recovered a fumble by Sproul when he mishandled the pitch from Melvin.
The Panthers took over at the Bluejay 36 and put the ball into the endzone two plays later with a 31-yard run by Ellis and a five-yard run into the endzone by Moon. With the PAT, the Panthers moved the score to 56-6.
The Bluejays began their drive on the 20 with the touchback. Following multiple defensive substitutions by the Panthers, the Bluejays moved the ball to the 40-yard line with a successful pass to Wilfong. Melvin again connected with his receiver as Jones hauled in a pass out to the flat and advanced it 60 yards for a touchdown. The Jays converted on their PAT, making the score 56-13 at the end of the third quarter.
Operating with a continuous clock to begin the fourth quarter, the Panthers began their drive from the 39-yard line. After three carries for a loss, the Panthers made their second punt of the evening.
The Bluejays took over at their 36 following the punt by Ty Sides. The first run attempt resulted in a quarterback sack by Keeten, Ragsdale and junior Parker Dibble. A pass over the middle gave the Jays a first down at the 49. Following a no-gain pitch to Lively and a stopped run by Sproul, the Jays completed a pass to Wilfong for a first down at the 40. A sack by sophomore John Boeve resulted in a loss of two, but Melvin again got the call the next play and advanced the ball to the 20-yard line. With 5:15 left in the game, Melvin completed a pass to Sproul for seven yards. Following two unsuccessful attempts to move the ball, Melvin found Wilfong out in the flat for a Bluejay touchdown. With the PAT, the score moved to 56-20, which would be the final.
The Panthers amassed 464 yards of total offense with 166 passing yards and 298 rushing yards. Leading rushers for the Panthers were Gross with 111 yards on six carries and one touchdown, Moon with 77 yards on 12 carries and one touchdown, Ty Sides with 62 yards on one carry and one touchdown and Ellis with 45 yards on five carries. Leading receivers were Ty Sides with 82 yards on four receptions and three touchdowns, Gross with 47 yards on three receptions with one touchdown, Ellis with 23 yards on three receptions and Miller with 14 yards on one reception. Trey Sides was 11/16 passing with 166 total yards and four touchdowns.
Defensively, the Panthers were led by Moon with five solo and one assisted tackle, Keeten with five solo and 11 assisted tackles and Ragsdale with two solo and 12 assisted tackles.