HERSHEY-Hershey could only get past the goal line once Friday despite numerous chances and that cost the Panthers in a 14-7 loss to Perkins County at Summers Field."We had opportunities to put it in the end zone and we just couldn't get it in there," said Hershey coach Ryan Smith.
Hershey (1-2) had its first scoring opportunity right away. The Panthers held Perkins County to a three-and-out and they took over at the Plainmen 39 after Chase Miyamoto's punt.
They got even closer after converting on third down and 15 with Colton Marshall throwing to Dylan Johnson for a first down at the 18.
But the drive stalled there and on a 32-yard field goal attempt by Landan Maassen, the holder, Josh Connell, fielded a high snap and decided to run for the first down but was stopped short.
Perkins County's second possession turned out like the first and also like Miyamoto's first punt, his second one gave Hershey great field position at the 38.
But on the next play, Marshall made a wild pitch on an option to the right side of the field and the Plainsmen recovered.
Both teams then traded punts and with time running out in the first quarter, Perkins County quarterback Elliot Carlson carried the ball and looked to be swarmed by a group of Hershey tacklers.
But somehow Carlson broke free and ran for a 70-yard score that was reminiscent of legendary Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier's touchdown run in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl and the Plainsmen had a 7-0 lead.
Not only did the Carlson touchdown run give Perkins County (3-0) first blood but it also shifted the battle of field position.
"There were a couple of times where we had Perkins County backed up and they made a big play to flip the field on us," Smith said. "That was a big issue in the first half. But not as much as the second half."
Late in the first half, the Plainsmen broke another long one when Tim Johnson rushed for 62 yards on an end-around to the Hershey 16. But fortunately for the Panthers, their defense held to force Perkins County to punt, which Miyamoto was tackled attempting a rugby-style kick. The score remained 7-0 at halftime.
Hershey received the ball to start the second half and on its third play from scrimmage, Marshall was blindsided by Alex Malmkar. Marshall fumbled and it was recovered by Perkins County's Tyrone Summers at the seven for first and goal.
The Panther defense only gave up a yard each on the first two plays but on third and goal from the five, Carlson rolled to his right and found Austin Thelander for the touchdown to make it 14-0.
Throughout the second half, Hershey had the ball in Plainsmen territory several times but the Panthers couldn't cash in.
With the game heading into the final five minutes, the game appeared to be sealed when Miyamoto intercepted Marshall on third down in the red zone.
But Logan Weir made the big defensive play for Hershey when he intercepted Carlson and returned it to the Perkins County 26.
Then on first down, Marshall threw his favorite pattern, the fade route to Johnson. The 6-foot-3 wideout Johnson came down with the ball near the left side line at the one-yard line which set up the touchdown run by Josh Margritz on the next play.
With 4:26 left, Hershey was back in the hunt.
"The ball (thrown by Marshall) was good but the effort (by Johnson) to get the ball was better," said Smith. "He's gotten better about that. He knows that he's going to get a lot of contact when he goes up for it."
On defense, the Panthers got the quick stop they needed and the offense took over at its own 48 with 2:48 left to play.
Marshall got a first down on third and eight when he connected over the middle to Connell at the 35.
But that was about the furthest Marshall could lead the Panthers. On fourth and four, Marshall rolled to his right but was met behind the line of scrimmage by his Plainsmen counterpart, Carlson, and Perkins County took over on downs with a little over a minute left.
"We just couldn't get the right combination there," Smith said.
Carlson took a knee the next two plays to run out the clock and keep Perkins County undefeated.
Perkins County 7 0 7 0 - 14
Hershey 0 0 0 7 - 7
PC-Elliot Carlson 70 run (Tim Johnson kick), :17
PC-Austin Thelander 5 pass from Carlson (Johnson kick), 9:07
H-Josh Margritz 1 run (Landan Maassen kick), 4:26.