The Saratoga Sun -

Cats cruise to 1-0 in conference, post 58-0 W

 


Three games into the season, the Panthers and their rookie coach Kegan Willford were still looking for their first win when they opened up conference play against Wyoming Indians Sept. 23. That elusive first W came in unexpectedly forceful fashion as the Cats, playing far from home, posted a 58-0 blowout victory over the Chiefs in their regional debut.

Saratoga came off the bench roaring and didn’t let up at any point. Though the Panthers deferred the kickoff, opting to send their defense onto the field first, the offense didn’t have to wait long for action of their own. An interception from junior Wyatt Cox just a few plays into the game gave Saratoga the ball in enemy territory and the team quickly capitalized.

Shortly after Cox’s pick, sophomore Alex Ziegler ran for a 28-yard touchdown to make it 6-0 and then converted a three-yard pass from quarterback Sam Schnieder to make it an even 8-0.

The Panthers never looked back.

In a dominant first quarter performance, Ziegler posted two rushing touchdowns and one TD off of a reception. It was a breakout game for the sophomore, who rushed for 79 yards on three attempts, and pulled down three receptions for another 40 yards. Ziegler also tacked on three punt returns for 61 yards and a kickoff return of 61 yards, making for a 241 yard day.

Running back Morgan Rempel and Schneider also posted rushing touchdowns in the first quarter, and after the first 12 minutes of play the score stood at 38-0.

In the second quarter, Schneider connected with Greg Swanson for a 10-yard touchdown pass, and later added a three-yard rushing touchdown of his own to close out the scoring for the half at 52 points. Schneider finished the afternoon 5 of 6 for 53 yards and two passing touchdowns. This aerial yardage was complemented by Schneider’s 5 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

No points were scored by either team during the third quarter, but the scoring blitz wasn’t quite over. In the fourth quarter, Logan Seahorn added a 19 yard rushing touchdown of his own, leaving the game’s final tally at 58-0.

“We had a good week at practice,” Willford said of his team’s turnaround. Perhaps as important as what Saratoga did right Sept. 23 was what it has corrected since its last match. In that 46-6 defeat at the hands of the Southeast Cyclones, Saratoga was plagued by turnovers and snapping troubles. Against the Chiefs, there was no evidence of those prior lapses in concentration and the Panthers didn’t give up a single turnover.

Willford also credited a new 4-4 defensive formation with generating more stops against the Chiefs. Against the 4-4, Wyoming Indian only managed to convert 1 of 8 third down opportunities and went 0 for 5 in fourth down conversions. The Chiefs finished the day with only 31 total offensive yards, 22 from rushing and nine in the air.

Nate Rimmer and Max Schneider, who began the season playing guard, returned to tackle where they had enjoyed some success against Southeast in the second half of that game. Willford described the fourth quarter of the Southeast game as a turning point for Saratoga and said, “the kids seemed to gain some confidence from that last quarter and take it into this week.”

The coach said he hoped to hold onto that momentum as the athletes go into homecoming week and off-field distractions abound. The Panthers next face Shoshoni 6 p.m. Sept. 30 at home, and Willford said he expected Shoshoni to attack largely on the ground.

A key to racking up another W will be playing disciplined defense instead of trying to be “super heroes,” Willford said. “We have to have everyone on defense do their job and stick to their assignment,” he said of strategy for the game to come.

 

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