NANTY GLO – Behind a quick-start offense and the defense forcing six turnovers, the Shade Panthers defeated the Blacklick Valley Vikings 33-23 on the road at Lloyd C. McMullen Memorial Field in Nanty Glo on Friday.
The early start was enhanced by the Panther’s defense forcing two turnovers on the first two offensive possessions of the Vikings.
After scoring on the opening drive of the game, aided by two Blacklick Valley penalties, the Panthers got turnovers in the form of an interception by junior Hunter Musser and a fumble recovery on a fake punt by the Vikings.
That second turnover of the first quarter was the most costly. The fake punt on a fourth and one from their own 13-yard line looked like a busted play. The ball was fumbled on an attempted exchange in the backfield and recovered by the visitors to give them great field position.
“We lost the game in the first quarter and that’s squarely on me. We got beat in all three facets of the game, we were unprepared, and that is all on the head coach,” Blacklick Valley coach Rich Price said.
After a big return on the ensuing kick off, Blacklick Valley had great field position at the Shade 26-yard line. They had to complete a fourth-and-7 play to get inside the 10-yard line on a brilliant scramble play from senior quarterback Dom DiPaolo, who evaded a would-be sack and threw to a wide-open Isaac Thomas, who broke free on the scramble drill.
Thomas capitalized two plays later, punching the ball in from a yard out to pull the Vikings within a score at 13-8.
The next sequence of drives for Blacklick Valley involved an interception by Shade senior Tyler Valine, an interception by junior Kaden Kolezarik, and another interception by Valine. DiPaolo finished the game 8 of 19 for 143 passing yards and a score.
Price had keyed in on the turnovers in his pregame prep during practices this week with Blacklick Valley. The coach knew that it would be an important battle, especially in trying to take down the defending WestPAC champs.
“We said coming into this game that winning the turnover battle and winning on special teams would be the key,” Price said. “Obviously we did not win either and the end results shows.”
After their only turnover of the first half on a fumbled exchange, the Panthers scored on two straight possessions to extend their lead out to 27-8 halfway through the third quarter.
The big three, sophomore Braden Adams, junior Vince Fyock, and Valine accounted for 221 of the 283 yards of offense.
Quarterback Adams finished the game 11 of 20 for 204 yards and three scores – two through the air.
Fyock finished with a game-high 114 receiving yards. Valine had 28 receiving yards and 34 rushing yards as well as the game’s first score.
Coming into this week, the Panthers only turned over their opponents once through three games.
“This was the first game I really saw our guys flying around and making plays,” Shade coach Don Fyfe said. “It was us being aggressive and growing as a team. As the season progresses, I believe we can get better as well… Come November, I believe we can be a tough out.”