The Southeastern Panthers take sole possession of first place in the SVC Football standings, following a come-from-behind 18-14 win Friday night. The Panthers scored 18 unanswered points and took advantage of multiple Unioto mistakes throughout the second half.
The last two quarters turned sour for Unioto as they turned the ball over four times and committed 15 of their 22 penalties. The Shermans had an incredible 175 yards in penalties, with 13 of the 22 flags being for off-side or illegal procedure calls.
Unioto grabbed a 14-0 lead, scoring at 2:51 of the first quarter and 8:41 in the second quarter. Gabe Fisher connected with Chance Smith on a 49 yard TD pass to get their scoring started, capping a 70 yard/5 play drive. Brice Robinson's PST kick made it 7-0. The Shermans second score came when Fisher ran a 5 yard TD, completing a 60 yard/6 play drive.
The Tanks were dominating the high-octane Southeastern offense for most of the first half, until the Panthers closed out the half with a 70 yard/11 play scoring drive, kept alive by a major Unioto penalty. Lane Ruby found John Winfield in the left corner of the end-zone for a 4 yard TD pass with :04 left in the half. Carson Stauffer's PAT kick went wide right, making it 14-6 at halftime.
While Southeastern's offense was being stopped by Unioto on their first four possessions of the second half, the Panthers were also keeping the Shermans out of the end-zone. Unioto turned the ball over four times in six possessions with three fumbles and one interception.
The Panthers drove 78 yards in 8 plays, scoring on a Lane Ruby 15 yard TD pass to John Winfield at 6:24 remaining in the game. SE's two-point conversion failed, leaving Unioto up 14-12. The ensuing kickoff saw Southeastern recover a Unioto fumble, and opened the door for the Panthers to drive 35 yards in 5 plays for the go-ahead score of 18-14 with 4:22 left in the game. Another two-point conversion try failed.
In spite of all their mistakes, Unioto still had one last opportunity to win, driving the ball from their own 39 yard line to the Southeastern two yard line with less than 30 seconds remaining. Quarterback Gabe Fisher ran the ball for and leaped toward the goal line for what would have been the go-ahead score, but the Panther defense stripped Fisher of the ball and recovered on the two yard line to seal the win.
Southeastern compiled 197 total yards, but were held to only 82 on the ground. Lane Ruby was 11/18 for 124 passing yards and threw for two TD's. The Panthers had 11 first downs, two turnovers and were penalized 5 times for 40 yards.
Unioto had 334 total yards, 195 on the ground with Gabe Fisher picking up 115 yards on 17 carries. Fisher was also 10/19 passing for 169 yards and 1 TD pass. Chance Smith caught 4 passes for 103 yards and score.
The eye-popping stat that killed Unioto was 22 penalties for 175 yards and 4 turnovers. Unioto Coach Jeff Metzler said in his post-game interview that "We were not at our best, when it came to being disciplined in many aspects of tonight's game".
Panthers Coach Evan Gallagher praised the "never say die attitude" that his players exhibited, saying the score at the end of the first half "breathed a little bit of life back into them", which carried over to the second half.
(4-0/7-0) Southeastern is off to a perfect start in their quest for their first SVC Football championship since a co-title in 2001. The chore will find the Panthers having to do it on the road as their last three games are away, starting at Paint Valley next Friday in our Herrnstein Hyundai SVC Game of the Week.
Unioto falls to (3-1/5-2) and will play host to Westfall next Friday.
*We experienced a problem with our podcast of the game not loading in its entirety. Thus far, we are unable to get the entire podcast, which is why is will be missing from our WKKJ podcast link. We apologize for the inconvenience*