By John Martin
The Harrah Panthers could never get untracked after halftime and lost their first game in the NEW Evans Field Stadium, 27-16, to the McLoud Redskins Friday night.
With a superb effort on both sides of the ball in the second quarter, the Panthers stopped McLoud cold after Brock Drew drilled a 59-yard punt to push the Redskins back to the 11.
McLoud scored on its first possession of the contest on a cross country completion from Braxton Hall to Zac Green and Hunter Ryan’s PAT.
But Isaac Landrith and Clay Goad came up with back to back tackles for no-gain and Kolby Visnieski and Tyler Stauffer combined to stop Hall on third down and Sam Dozier blew up McLoud’s try for fourth and one.
Jeff Roberson wasted no time as the sophomore QB deftly guided his team to the end zone. Blake Solmi, who pounded out 144 yards in 21 attempts in his varsity debut, had gains of 9 and 17 to push he ball to the 22. Roberson faked a handoff to Solmi, picked up a nice block from Carson Bell and Jackson Lemons and outran the Redskins to the end zone to pull the Panthers to within 7-6.
But the Panther D wasn’t through as Terry Winstead delivered a jaw-rattling hit on an attempted pass and Landrith came up with the second of his three sacks of the night to force a punt.
SEMINOLE NEXT. Things don’t get any easier for the Panthers who will host Seminole Friday night at Evans Field. The Chieftains were impressive in a 54-6 win over Wewoka in their opener Friday night.
Bell picked up a first down at the 45 on a seven-yard gainer, then Solmi chalked up back to back first downs to move the ball to the 20. Bell had seven and Roberson got loose for 12 to the one where Solmi banged it in. Roberson ran in the PAT and the huge Panther crowd was roaring as their team went up, 14-7, with just 2:10 remaining before halftime.
Lemons forced Hall to dump off a pass before David Duncan and Josh Skalicky combined to stop Damien Dye on third down with 12 seconds left. Goad then rang Hall’s bell with a sack and time ran out before the Redskins could get organized.
McLoud took the second half kickoff at the 33, but four plays later Dye got loose and sped 35 yards for the touchdown. However, Duncan and Landrith joined Dozier to block the PAT and the Panthers still led, 14-13.
But the tide soon turned as the Panthers fumbled the kickoff, giving McLoud possession at the 38. The Redskins reached the one but penalties and some rugged defense by Winstead, Goad and Brian Byers brought up a third and goal from the 16 when Hall delivered a strike to Logan Whapekeche for the TD and a 19-14 lead for the Redskins.
The Panthers muffed a golden opportunity after downing the kickoff at the 33. Solmi broke loose for a 38-yard gain, then picked up 14 on three more blasts into the McLoud D to advance the ball to the 20. A five-yard run by Bell and a penalty earned a first and goal from the 10.
Solmi gained 4 on first down but Roberson was just short of the goal on fourth down and the Redskins took over at the one. The Panthers got a safety out it but Dye tacked on a touchdown and then caught the two-point conversion for the final 27-16 tally.
The Panther ground attack was strong as Solmi led the way with 144 yards rushing, while Roberson, in his first varsity start, added 69 including the 22-yard TD run. Bell delivered a solid game blocking and also averaged 5 yards per carry on six attempts.
The Panthers did not complete a pass in the contest while Hall connected on 15 of 21 for 181 yards.