Fumbles lead to long ride home

Coach hopes to iron out ball-handling mistakes after lopsided loss to Lusk Tigers

 


Sandwiched between two four-and-a-half-hour trips on a school bus, the Saratoga High School Panthers football team suffered a resounding 58-12 loss to Lusk Sept. 9. “It wasn’t a very fun bus ride back home,” said first year coach Kegan Willford.

A big factor in the lopsided outcome was how much difficulty the Panthers had holding onto the ball, Willford said. He said the Panthers had five turnovers in the first half, including four fumbles and one interception and “Our defense was just put into some pretty bad positions (because of that).”

By the time the Panthers went to the locker room at half, they were already down 38-6, and the outcome was never seriously in doubt during the final 24 minutes of play. Willford said the team was working on more game-type situations and drills this week at practice, and that many of the lapses in ball-handling were the sort of mistakes that can be corrected with dutiful repetition.

One fumble came when the center snapped the ball to the quarterback and the pigskin skittered out of grasp during the transition. Another came when the ball was snapped over the quarterback’s head, Willford said. Fortunately, the coach said these sorts of mistakes are easily addressed on the practice field and the Panthers “will be doing more repetitions with that this week.”


An area in which Willford saw some improvement was the team’s open-field tackling. After a loss against Burns to open the season, Willford had his team practiced hitting all last week and said the work had paid off. The coach noted that more players were getting to the ball-carrier faster, and that Lusk had more trouble escaping tackles than Burns had against the Panthers in week one.

Another issue was a short bench. Willford mentioned that only 19 players suited up Friday because of lingering injuries and poor academics, but he hopes to have more players in uniform for the Panthers’ next match against Shoshoni Sept. 16.

From the film he’s seen, Willford expects something of an aerial assault from the Wranglers. “We’ have to shore up our pass defense this week,” he said. Willford’s Panthers play a man-to-man defensive formation and will be looking for Shoshoni to lean heavily on the passing game 4 p.m. Sept. 16 in Saratoga.

With a deeper roster, no long bus ride and an enthusiastic home crowd cheering them on, the Panthers hope to be better positioned to get a W this week.

 

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