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Prep football: Panthers survive Stafford’s upset bid
BY STEVE DeSHAZO
Just as he’d been on the field, Vinny Mihota wasn’t in a particularly chipper mood after Massaponax withstood Stafford’s upset bid for a 13– 7 Commonwealth District win Friday night.
After spending much of the night in the Indians’ backfield, Mihota was al ready looking forward to next Friday’s visit to presea son district favorite North Stafford—and envisioning the ways the Panthers need to improve before then.
“As much as this prepares us, it’s nothing compared to what we’ll see next week,” Mihota said. “Our offense needs to stop turning over the ball, and our defense has to keep playing better.”
Two more turnovers and a gritty Stafford defense con spired to keep Massaponax (3–0, 1–0) sputtering on offense Friday night.
But Mihota and his defen sive mates carried the load, coming within nine seconds of a shutout and dropping Indians quarterback Billy Bolinsky for losses 11 times. Mihota had three sacks and recovered a fumble.
After Massaponax quar terback Alphonso Trice lost a fumble at the Stafford 22 late in the third period, the Panthers sacked Bolinsky on four straight plays—three of them aided by high shotgun snaps from center.
“That was one of the best defensive performances I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Eric Ludden, Massapon ax’s 15th-year head coach. “I don’t usually like to make big statements like that, but it’s true. Dhevyn Anderson and, of course, Mihota, put tremendous pressure on the quarterback.”
That assault kept the Pan thers even until they got their offense untracked with two long second-half touch down drives. Their best play of the first half was actually made by punter Keith Phelps, who ran down an errant snap deep in his own territory and got off a 33- yard kick to avert disaster.
Trice capped an 11-play, 77-yard scoring drive on the Panthers’ first possession of the third quarter with a 7- yard touchdown run.
Then, after the Indians (0–3, 0–1) were stopped on a fake punt at their own 30, Javonte Latney bulled his way into the end zone from 5 yards out for a 13–0 lead with 1:20 remaining. Latney gained 105 of his game-high 110 rushing yards in the second half, when the Pan thers didn’t throw a pass.
But the Indians didn’t quit. Bolinsky shrugged off the bruises and found Da’Shawn Harris on a 35- yard touchdown pass with nine seconds remaining, and Stafford recovered the ensu ing onside kick.
Two desperation passes from Bolinsky fell incom plete, as did the Indians’ comeback hopes.
“Massaponax is obviously a very good football team, and you can’t make many mistakes against them,” Stafford coach Chad Lewis said. “But we hung in there and battled back down to the last second.
“We’re getting better each week. We’ve got to keep working, but we’re going to be a good football team.”
Stafford visits Orange next Friday.
Stafford 0 0 0 7 — 7
Massaponax 0 0 6 7 — 13
Ma-A. Trice 7-yard run (kick blocked)
Ma-J. Latney 5-yard run (K. Phelps kick)
St-D. Harris 35-yard pass from B. Bolinsky (A. Williams kick)
First downs@8 14
Rushing yardage@31-47 48-238
Passing yardage@74 29
Rushing: Massaponax—Javonte Latney 18-110, TD; Alphonzo Trice 14-54, TD; AJ Forbes 3-36; Brandon Parks 4-18; C.J. Lewis 1-16; Cortez Jones 5-3; Joey Foster 3-1. Stafford—Traevon Richardson 8-52; Andrew Williams 1-34; Da’Shawn Harris 2- 9; Trey Spindle 1-8; Devin Stowell 2-(-7); Billy Bolinsky 17-(-49).
Passing: Massaponax—Alphonzo Trice 2- 6-0 29. Stafford—Billy Bolinsky 7-20-1 74, TD.
Receiving: Massaponax—AJ Forbes 1-13. Stafford—Da’Shawn Harris 6-68, TD.
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443 email@example.com