Panthers hold off Mustangs’ late rally
MIDDLEBURG — Bloomsburg made schematic and personnel changes prior to Friday night’s game at Midd-West.
The overhaul led to the greatest change for the Panthers, a 40-21 victory to put them in the win column for the first time this year.
“Talking as a staff, we wanted a different package with Madden [Locke] at tailback and the evolution of Nick Wharton at fullback,” Bloomsburg coach Mike Kogut said. “Coach Tyler Coombe said ‘let’s get them in the backfield.’ From there, we got together and involved some different personnel packages.
“We just wanted to get the ball in [Locke’s] hands.”
It worked early, but Bloomsburg needed quarterback Liam Zentner to get out of danger. Facing a fourth-and-8 to start the second quarter, it looked as if Midd-West’s Ryland Portzline was going to sack Zentner and change possession. Instead, Zentner somehow bought extra time with Portzline hanging from him and found Jake Forgelsanger for 18 yards and a first down.
On the ensuing play, Zentner found Locke underneath, and he did the rest for an 18-yard touchdown to start the game’s scoring.
The duo connected again on the ensuing drive, this time for 49 yards.
Locke finished the game with four catches for 118 yards. He also rushed for 53 yards on nine carries.
The Panthers, though, went as Daniel Guzevich went. Working out of a wildcat formation for much of the night, Guzevich rushed for a game-high 102 yards on nine carries. He also had a 13-yard completion, 19-yard reception, and a 2-point conversion run offensively. To top his night off, he had a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter — the Panthers last points of the contest.
“He did a lot of great things for us, and our line held up tonight,” Kogut said of Guzevich. “All of our guys made plays in open space on both sides of the ball. It just shows how athletic they are, and I couldn’t be happier for them because they’ve worked so hard up to this point.”
Liam Zentner also had a strong performance under center for the Panthers, throwing for 146 yards. He had a third touchdown pass — to Parker Jones — late in the third quarter.
“We’re really lucky and blessed to have multiple kids who can run and catch the ball,” Kogut said. “Between Guzevich, [Damon] Rasmussen [II] and Locke, we can line up in all these different personnel systems and create matchups that are hopefully favorable. I think we were able to do that tonight, and wouldn’t have been possible without Zentner leading us at quarterback tonight.”
The Panthers also got solid contributions from their special teams. As a pair of drives stalled, they turned to Sisay Doerschler, and he didn’t disappoint, nailing 38 and 42-yard field goals. The return team, led in large by Nasir Kelly, also had the Panthers setting up shop in great field position — three times from the Panthers’ 45 or better. Nathan Borchert also blocked a punt in the second quarter to put the Panthers at the Mustangs’ 32-yard-line. The drive was capped off by Zenter on a 7-yard keeper.
While the Panthers got on a roll offensively, the Mustangs couldn’t figure anything out in the first half. Midd-West accumulated 47 total yards, and couldn’t establish a running game all night. All told, the Panthers held the Mustangs rushing attack to 1 or less yards on eight plays, including three sacks.
That led the Mustangs to turn to C.J. Regester to pass the ball more, and for the most part it worked. Aside from two interceptions — Fogelsanger coming down with the other on an over the shoulder, one-handed grab, after the ball bounced off a couple other players.
“We threw the ball more than we wanted to because they were just stacking the box with eight guys,” Midd-West coach Lance Adams said. “It was hard to establish any type of running game with any consistency.”
Regester really had it working with Corey Reinard, as the duo connected seven times for 174 yards. Three of those went for touchdowns of 48, 48 and 46 yards. Two of those sandwiched Guzevich’s interception, creating three scores in less than five minutes of play. That’s also despite a dense fog hanging around for much of the second half.
“We’ve got to play like that in the first half,” Adams said. “We can’t wait until we’re down 24-0 to execute like that. We had our chances in the first half, but we didn’t execute, we didn’t finish.”
Not all was perfect for the Panthers. The team committed 19 penalties, totaling 148 yards.
“We still need to clean up a lot of things. Too many yellow flags on the field,” Kogut said. “They’re kids and they’re not trying to do that on purpose. We’ll try to clean that up, but we took strides today, they’ve improved and done everything we asked of them. We’re really happy and proud of them.”