The Saratoga Sun -

Photos from: Panthers show improvement, come up short against Riverside Rebels

Mike Dunn

The Saratoga Panthers (0-5, 0-4) played their best game of the season last Friday - even if the scoreboard didn't show it. Ultimately, the Panthers could not keep up with the passing attack of the Riverside Rebels (3-1, 3-2) in their 18-40 loss in Saratoga. "We played much better," Saratoga head coach Scott Bokelman said. "We are going to continue to keep getting better." After being shut out for two straight games, the Panthers managed to post a season high 18 points against Riverside- which is more than a 12-point improvement over their average. However, Bokelman said his offense still needs to be more efficient and limit turnovers. The first quarter ended as a defensive struggle, with both teams failing to move the ball down the field. But the Rebels eventually broke a long bubble-screen pass to take it down to the 1-yard line just before the first quarter ended. They scored on the opening play of the second quarter, and failed to convert, to make it a 0-6 game. The Rebels were not done in the second quarter. Riverside marched down the field and scored on a 4-yard pass, giving them a 0-12 advantage over the Panthers. On the next possession, the Panthers fumbled the punt on their own 1-yard line. The Rebels took advantage of the mistake, and scored on a 1-yard run with 4:14 left in the second quarter. After a stalled Panther drive, Rodrigo Escobedo intercepted a pass for Saratoga's first pick of the year. However, Panther quarterback Thatcher Spiering threw an interception on the next play. The Rebels threw a 20-yard pass for a touchdown, closing out the first half with a score of 0-24 in Riverside's favor. Bokelman said at halftime, he reiterated to his players to stay with the basics. "I told them that they need to stay with their blocks and to keep their heads up," Bokelman said. "We always try to keep it positive in the locker room at halftime." The Panthers played in the second half with purpose. The Panthers blocked a Rebel punt and Cameron Lehr recovered the punt in the end zone for a Panther score. The Panthers had been working on the play-action pass all week, Thatcher Speiring and Alex Zeigler connected on a 37-yard touchdown pass which put the Panthers within two scores of the Rebels. "They were loading up the box against us," Bokelman said about Riverside's defense. "[The pass] was not perfectly clean, and we are going to clean it up this week, but it worked." But the Rebels did not go down without a fight. In the fourth quarter. Riverside scored on two separate fourth-down conversions, one with 10:55 remaining and another with 5:31 remaining. The second touchdown put the game out of reach for the Panthers. Following the Rebel's final score, Seth Harrison returned the kickoff the length of the football field to give the Panthers a season-high 18 points. "Seth didn't play last year, but he's a tough kid," Bokelman said. "He's getting stronger every game and he really runs hard. We are counting on him this week." Despite big plays, the Panther offense continued to see less-than-stellar results on the offensive side of the ball. The Panthers finished the game with five three-and-outs, and struggled to move the ball on the ground. Saratoga was second-to-last in rushing yards going into the Riverside game, putting up a modest 56.3 yards per game. But the big plays are crucial in building Bokelman's team's mentality on both sides of the ball. "They are gaining confidence - they are starting to see what they are able to do," Bokelman said. The Panthers are next heading up to the northwest corner of the state this week to take on the Huskies of Burlington High School (2-3, 2-2). The Huskies are coming off a 0-56 loss against 1A powerhouse Cokeville. With a six-hour bus ride to Burlington, keeping the team focused will be critical. The team will stop to runs through plays at a park as they make their way up to Big Horn County. The Huskies will likely be running up the middle out of a wing-T formation. While the Panthers have consistently been able to stop the run between the tackles, Bokelman said the key will be to solidify the edge of the defensive line and to continue to improve with every practice. The Panthers meet the Burlington Huskies on Friday at 2 p.m. at Burlington High School.

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2018