WAYNESFIELD — The Waynesfield-Goshen Tigers entered Friday night's NWCC showdown with a perfect scenario, a chance to nail down a league title and a likely playoff berth, in front of a large homecoming crowd.
Instead, the Tiger laid an egg of epic proportions, suffering a relentless 42-14 pounding at the hands of the Panthers.
The Panthers jumped out early, taking a 21-7 lead and forcing the Tigers out of their usual grind-it-out game plan. The Tigers did manage 322 offensive yards, but the Panthers needed only 49 offensive plays to get 441 total yards. A track meet was the last thing the Tigers wanted, and that theory proved true throughout the game.
They knew what we wanted to do and they put everyone up in the box," W-G head coach Gary Spencer said after the game. "We had some kids banged up and we weren't able to adjust because our quarterbacks could not run outside."
The Panthers came out in their usual fashion hitting the airwaves and throwing the ball down the field. After a slow start, Fairbanks quarterback Hunter Burnett caught fire, throwing for 188 yards in the second quarter alone. He hit Phillip Gibson for a 36-yard score and then his 14 yard strike to Brent Nichol set a one-yard run two plays later. Burnett had been out with an injury and Nichol had subbed nicely at quarterback this season until Burnett's returned. Burnett returned under center and both adjusted nicely, as Burnett through for 243 yards and Nichol rushed for 107 yards and caught three passes for another 35 yards.
W-G crept back in the game briefly with an eight play scoring drive that ended with a Garret Miller touchdown pass to Lee Turner. With only two minutes remaining in the half, it appeared the Tigers may go into the half only trailing by 14-7. However a short squib kick was returned by Nichol to the Panther 48-yard line giving Fairbanks good field position. Four quick completions later, the Panthers had scored in only 1:16 to make it 21-7.
The Tigers made a good attempt to score before the half, getting down inside the 30-yard line, but Ben Van Gordon intercepted a Miller pass with one second remaining to keep the Tigers two scores behind at the half.
With the strong passing game spreading out the defense, the Panthers began to run the ball well also in the second half. They methodically drove the ball down the field on the opening drive, and Burnett hit Gibson with an 11-yard score to make in 28-7.
From that point, it was blown chances for the Tigers. They penetrated deep in Panther territory on all four possessions, but came away with only one score. In ten possessions on the night, the Tigers reached Panther territory nine times, but only scored twice.
While the loss likely knocked the Tigers out of the hunt for the league title, a playoff berth is still very real, with plenty of points to gather from defeating either Patrick Henry or Dayton Christian in the team's next two games. Spencer said the team will regroup and focus during practice the following week.
"They had a league title taken away and rightly so," Spencer said. "But we talked after the game and I told the kids to keep their chin up. A win or two gives them a good chance to be in playoff contention. The season is not over."
The Panther defense held feature back Gabe Hennon to 42 yards on 16 carries. Miller through for 141 yards before going out with an ankle injury, and backup QB Lake Turner responded nicely by throwing for another 103 yards in a losing cause. Eli O'Leary caught 11 passes for 113 yards for the Tigers.