HERSHEY — Defense wins games.
On Friday night at Hershey, the Panthers used their defense to carry them to a 20-8 win over Southern Valley to improve to 2-0 on the season.
"We’re fortunate that we have a lot of kids who like to play defense and who love to hit," said Hershey head coach Ryan Smith. "Our defense really carried us to this win."
Hershey got off to a horrible start. The Panthers fumbled on their second play from scrimmage and Southern Valley recovered at the Panthers’ 16.
The Eagles scored on their first offensive play as quarterback Jeremiah Perkins found Hunter Quinn in the end zone. Quinn ran in the two-point conversion and the Eagles led 8-0 with less than two minutes gone in the game.
"I think they caught us a little down," Smith said. "Tanner [Kosmick] had good coverage, but the pass was perfect and the kid made a heck of a catch."
Hershey cut into the lead with 6:51 left in the first half. Hershey punted, but a personal foul penalty on the Eagles gave the Panthers a first down and they drove 50 yards to score on a 1-yard run by Gaige Marshall. The big play of the drive was a 29-yard pass from quarterback Logan Weir to tight end Landon Maassen.
The Panthers then turned up the defensive pressure.
The Eagles got the ball after the kickoff and started on their own 6. On second-and-9 from the 7, Alex Kaup of Southern Valley was hit hard and was slow to get up, forcing him from the game. On the next play, Maassen came up from the secondary and blasted Perkins, sending the quarterback to the sideline as well.
On the punt, Kaup, who also punts, was hit with a hard block and once again had to leave the field.
"We were getting after it on defense," Maassen said. "We were hitting them hard and they didn’t like it."
"We played well as a defense," said Josh Margritz. "It was a team effort and they couldn’t stop us."
Hershey got a lucky break at the end of the half. With two seconds left on the clock, Weir scrambled and threw a pass into the end zone. The ball was tipped by an Eagle defender and Maassen came down with it for a touchdown.
"I was just saying, ‘come down ball, come down,’" the senior said. "It hung up forever, but then I had it."
"We got lucky there at the end of the half," Smith said. "We told the kids that the touchdown and the way our defense played had given us all the momentum."
In the second half, the Panthers clamped down on the Eagle offense. Hershey caused Perkins to fumble in the end zone and the Panthers got a safety on the play to increase the edge to 14-8.
Early in the fourth quarter, Hershey forced the Eagles to punt deep their own territory. A bad punt gave the Panthers a first-and-goal at the 9 and Weir hit Margritz for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 10:43 left in the game.
A bad punt, this time by Hershey, gave the Eagles the ball at the Panthers 29 midway through the fourth quarter, but Hershey forced four straight incompletions to get the ball on downs. It was the only time in the second half the Eagles had possession in Hershey territory.
Margritz carried the ball 19 times for 78 yards while Weir had 81 yards passing and a two touchdowns. The Panthers held Southern Valley to 27 total yards of offense in the game.
Southern Valley ......... 8 0 0 0 — 8
Hershey .................... 0 12 2 6 — 20
SV — Hunter Quinn 16-yard pass from Jeremiah Perkins (Perkins run), 11:15
H — Gaige Marshall 1-yard run (pass failed), 6:51
H — Landon Maassen 30-yard pass from Logan Weir (pass failed), :00
H — Safety. 5:29
H — Josh Margritz 8-yard pass from Weir (kick blocked), 10:43
HERSHEY — Defense wins games.