On a team full of versatile athletes, it was a veteran who made the biggest impact Friday.
With a potential four-game losing skid hanging in the balance and staring a second straight losing season in the face, Trey Cobb went to work. The senior’s 137 rushing yards, two touchdowns, nine tackles and a fumble recovery became the perfect antidote for a Panthers’ squad toiling in mediocrity as they throttled AC/GC, 42-8 in week eight action.
The Panthers (4-4, 1-3) were in danger of falling even further into a hole after starting the year 3-1, before they snapped alive, halting the Chargers’ (3-5, 2-2) two-game wining streak. It was all a matter of rising to the occasion and matching a strong defense with a physical game plan and it all nearly worked to perfection, Panorama head coach Mike Kauzlarich said.
With an AC/GC offense averaging nearly 400 rush yards over their past two games, the first-year coach knew his Panthers had to stand tall.
“Our major focus this week was matching the physicality of ACGC. They are a physical team that wants to play downhill,” Kauzlarich said. “We knew if we wanted to be successful, we would have to be able to stop the run. Also, we knew we would be able to throw the ball, but really wanted to showcase the run game and stretch the field sideline to sideline. I thought our offensive line looked very crisp and played their assignments well.”
The two squads traded touchdowns in the opening quarter as AC/GC took an 8-7 lead before Panorama’s Zach Rizzuti blew the game open with an 89-yard kick return for a touchdown. That’s all the spark the Panthers needed as they strung together 35 unanswered points to jump back into the win column Oct. 12 in Panora.
The Chargers mustered 201 total yards in the loss – all on the ground – as they struggled to convert on third down (3-11). The Chargers fumbled three times while Panorama never coughed up the ball once – a big difference in what ended up being a lopsided game.
“Our defense stepping up and forcing some turnovers were huge,” Kauzlarich said. “We knew it would be a physical game and our guys rose to the occasion. I really felt like we played our best game all year. We put together four quarters of solid football.”
Even without the Panthers’ leading passer, Alejandro Mendez (702 yards, 5 TDs), Panorama had little trouble piling up the points. Quarterback Luke South spelled Cobb dutifully, tallying 106 yards and a touchdown on the ground for a 6.2 yards per carry average. He also threw for two touchdowns and 93 yards.
Gracen Welberg made both his receptions last week count, hauling in a pair of touchdowns. it was a complete offensive performance as South got a full slew of Panthers involved throughout the four quarter game while Cobb did the dirty work, Kauzlarich said.
“Offensively,Trey Cobb did a great job getting the ground game going and Luke South had his best game managing the game,” Kauzlarich said. “He really ‘ran’ the offense to precision that we hadn’t seen yet.”
AC/GC’s Ben Kingery produced yet another 100-yard game, tallying 120 yards on 20 carries while Gabe Rowley scored the lone touchdown, amassing 38 yards on seven carries. Kingery is second in the district in rushing with 851 yards and five touchdowns, a 106 yards per game average.
South is now fifth in the district with 637 yards and eight touchdowns while Cobb is up to 285 yards and seven touchdowns.
Cobb is also third in 1A with 76.5 tackles
Panorama’s victory last week sets up an important tilt with West Central Valley (1-7, 0-4). Win, and the Panthers assure themselves a winning record, returning to the old ways after a down year last fall. Lose, and it’s back to the drawing board with a 4-5 record. Kauzlarich is confident his guys can snag another win in the season finale, ending the year on a two-game win streak.
“We feel like we are playing our best football here down the stretch,” the Panorama coach said. “I think it is important to establish a tough mindset culture and show the ability to win physical games, even being a spread offense.
Our guys understand that we have to continue to be physical in order to achieve goals we have set out to reach as a program.”
The Wildcats are led by a lethal combination of quarterback Carson Wadle, who is ninth in the state in total offensive yardage (1, 671, 17 TDs) and one of the state’s top receivers in Cole Arnburg. The senior has hauled in 48 catches for 896 yards and 11 touchdowns, all three marks inside place him in the top four in the state.
Slowing WCV’s playmakers will be a key in moving above the .500 mark for the first time in a month, the Panorama coach said.
“West Central Valley has a lot of athletic ability and it will be their senior’s last game. They will come out ready to go, and we have to make sure we don’t give them any big plays to start the game,” Kauzlarich said. “I think a key to us will once again be establishing the run game and moving the chains early in the game to get great field position.
Our defense has done a great job all year and look to have another solid outing to wrap up the season and head into the offseason with a winning record.”
Second-rankedVan Meter (8-0) remains atop Class 1A, district eight with a 4-0 record after dismantling Mount Ayr (6-2, 3-1) last week.
AC/GC and Clarinda are tied for third at 2-2 while Panorama is fifth at 1-3. West Central Valley is alone in last place.
AC/GC hits the road Friday, Oct. 19 to face Mount Ayr in their season finale, a team that recently saw a five game winning-streak snapped at the hands of the defending champs.
They are led by a dual-threat quarterback in Payton Weehler. The sophomore gun-slinger has amassed 1,421 total yards and 15 touchdowns. Mount Ayr’s defense has only given up more than 30 points once, last week when Van Meter rang up 35.