Football: Academy spoils Panther homecoming
The Homecoming game was a tough one for Middle Park High’s football team, which suffered a 39-14 defeat by The Academy last Friday night.
The Panthers, who have been struggling during the early season with injuries, had trouble putting together consistent drives for most of the game against Academy’s strong defense. Middle Park’s defense was also unable to stop Academy’s effective ground attack.
“We moved the ball on offense but did not get much to show for it,” coach Marc Loberg said. “Fourteen points was not enough. We’re disappointed, both players and coaches.”
The first minutes of the game set the tone for Middle Park. After taking the kickoff at their own 20-yard line, the Panthers fumbled the ball on the first play. Academy quickly capitalized on it with a 20-yard touchdown carry by their quarterback, followed by an accurate kick through the goalposts for the extra point.
After that initial score, the first quarter settled into a defensive struggle between the two teams. That changed once the second quarter began with Academy making a 50-yard punt return to Middle Park’s 40-yard line and then moving the ball 10 more yards in short rushes. In a well-executed misdirection play, their rusher found a hole in the defense and broke three tackles before covering the final 30 yards to score.
Within minutes, Academy was in the end zone once again, after a short punt by Middle Park that went only 15 yards and put the ball at midfield. Having succeeded so well with it on their last possession, Academy pulled off another misdirection play that allowed their rusher to break into the open for a 50-yard sprint to the goal line.
The Panthers looked as if they would go scoreless into halftime, but they were determined to not let that happen. In the final minute of second quarter, quarterback Mike Schmidt handed off the ball to Zane Bickler, who charged through a hole torn in the defense by Middle Park’s linemen. Receiving good blocking, he sprinted 55 yards across the field to score the Panthers’ first touchdown.
While down 19-6 on the scoreboard, the Panthers may have had hopes of a comeback in the second half, but Academy quickly shattered that dream by scoring three more touchdowns in the third quarter. The first TD came on a 19-yard quarterback keeper, the second on a 30-yard misdirection play and the third on a 27-yard run by Academy’s quarterback.
Late into the fourth quarter and trailing 39-6, Middle Park switched to backup quarterback Jordan Reynolds, who started using the passing game to achieve some results. In one pass he connected with receiver Caleb Conger for a 28-yard gain.
“Caleb caught the ball with one arm, which was in a cast, while under double coverage. That was pretty phenomenal,” Loberg said.
Getting within seven yards of Academy’s goal line, Reynolds used the aerial attack once again. He tossed a short pass to sophomore receiver Conner Niklas in the end zone to score Middle Park’s second TD. Then on the point-after-touchdown play,
Reynolds opted to carry the ball and raced into the end zone behind good blocking to score the two-point conversion.
In the stats for the Panthers, Schmidt was the team’s leading rusher for the second consecutive week, gaining 101 yards during the Homecoming game. He was followed by Bickler with 90 yards and Alex Morrow with 23.
Ben Shipman did an excellent job in punt returns, earning a total of 117 yards on four carries.
On defense, three quarterback sacks were made by Middle Park defenders Morrow, Bickler and Matt Hydrusko. Schmidt was the team’s leading tackler with 14, followed by Hydrusko and Chad Sprague with 10 apiece.
“They say failure breeds more learning,” Loberg said. “From this game, we learned a lot and we’ll do our best to turn it into something positive. We still have a chance to achieve our goals this season because we’re still in the thick of league play.”
A positive note for Middle Park’s football team is that its junior varsity squad won an 8-6 victory over Academy in an away game Monday. The Panther JVs are now 3-1 for season.
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