The Hershey Panthers football team outbattled favored Perkins County Thursday in the opening round of the state football playoffs to take a 27-7 win. Hershey (5-4) was seeded 12th in the playoff bracket and Perkins County (7-2), was seeded fifth.
Perkins County scored on their first possession, but Hershey mounted a solid drive and played good defense.
"Although we didn't score, that first drive gave us some confidence that we’d be able to move the ball some throughout the game," Hershey coach Ryan Smith said. "They came back and put together a few nice drives in the first half, but turned the ball over a couple of times. Defensively, we seemed to bend but didn’t break."
Hershey scored on a touchdown pass from Colton Marshall to Dylan Johnson in the second quarter to tie the game at halftime, 7-7.
Smith said his team was confident heading into the locker room.
The teams traded possessions to start the third quarter, but when Perkins County had to punt the second time, Hershey's Gaige Marshall gathered the ball and returned it 71 yards for a touchdown to give the Panthers a lead it never relinquished.
Hershey's defense toughened in the second half, holding Perkins County inside their half of the field, with only one exception when the Plainsmen crossed midfield to the 48-yard line.
In the fourth quarter, Johnson caught another pass from Marshall, a three-yarder, and Tyler Brown capped off the scoring with a TD run from seven yards out.
"Our offensive line did an outstanding job, especially in the second half," Smith said. "We were consistent up front and ate up a lot of clock with the running game in the fourth quarter.
"That was a great win for us," he said, "our first playoff win in history."
"I’m very proud of our kids for how hard they’ve fought all season," Smith said. "Even when we were 2-3, they kept working hard and stayed very positive.
On offense, Josh Margritz rushed 15 times for 65 yards. Marshall carried 10 times for 46 yards. And in the air, Marshall was 7-13 for 98 yards and 2 TDs.
On defense, Margritz and Jacob Thompson each had 14 tackles and Adam Steffes had 13. Marshall recovered two fumbles and Jacob Thompson recovered one, plus picked off a Plainsman pass.
Hershey (5-4) went to Grant and beat Perkins County 27-7 to win its first state playoff game in school history.
The win was sweeter because it avenged an early season loss to Perkins County. On Sept. 14, at Summers Field in Hershey, the Plainsmen edged the Panthers in a game that went down to the last second.
Next week, Hershey will host Blue Hill (8-1), the fourth seed in the bracket. Blue Hill beat Kimball (4-5) in the first round, 42-7.
The game starts at 5 p.m. Wednesday.