HERSHEY-Hershey overcame an early setback on Friday night to defeat Southern Valley 20-8 at Summers Field.
Hershey coach Ryan Smith said that he was pleased with his defense’s physicality against a potent Southern Valley offense.
“I think our kids, and you saw this from them last year, they enjoy hitting,” he said. “They fly around and they don’t get down on themselves. They’re always jumping around saying ‘I got this!’ We don’t have any sprinters on our defense but they play so fast. That makes calling plays on offense a lot easier because you know you don’t need to score a bunch of points to win.”
Hershey (2-0) received the ball to start the game and the Panthers coughed the ball up on the first play from scrimmage.
Southern Valley (0-2) recovered the ball at the Hershey 16 yard line and on its first play, quarterback Jeremiah Perkins dropped back and found 6-foot-3 receiver Hunter Quinn on a fade route in the left side of the end zone for a touchdown.
The Eagles then got a bigger boost when Perkins ran it in for the two-point conversion, making it 8-0.
Because of the early score, the play of the defense became that much more crucial since Hershey is such a defensive-oriented team and falling behind two scores would have been hard to come back from.
But the Panthers held Southern Valley long enough for their offense to get going.
In the second quarter, Hershey entered the red zone for the first time when Landan Maassen caught a 28-yard pass from quarterback Logan Weir at the Eagle four.
The Panthers were called for holding on the following play. But Josh Margritz made up for it with a 10-yard carry to bring Hershey to the doorstep. Gaige Marshall then punched it in on the next play. But on the two-point conversion attempt, Weir’s pass was intercepted by Quinn and Southern Valley remained in front 8-6.
“The biggest key was that we didn’t quit on offense or defense,” Smith said. “We knew that our deficit wasn’t big. It was just 8-0 and we knew we had to get some confidence in our offense and defense and we did.”
It remained a two-point game until the end of the first half. With only nine seconds left, Hershey had the ball at Southern Valley’s 30.
On what was to be the final play of the half, Weir rolled out to his right and right before he reached the line of scimmage, he launched the ball toward the end zone. Quinn batted the ball up in the air and players from both sides battled for it. But Maassen came down with it and dragged his foot in the back right corner of the end zone for the touchdown and the Panthers had their first lead of the game.
Hershey’s second two-point conversion was no good as Weir’s pass was incomplete and the score was 12-8 going into the break.
The last-second touchdown set the tone for the second half, Smith said.
“We know we should’ve been down 8-6,” Smith said. “Just having that kind of momentum at halftime was huge because we knew with our defense that if we could come right out and stop them and then get another touchdown, we’d have a good chance to win the game.”
A little more than halfway through the third quarter, the Panthers got another break. With Southern Valley backed up inside its 10-yard line, which was a constant for much of the game, Perkins ran an option from under center to the left side and was crushed by Maassen. Maassen’s hit knocked the ball loose and it went into the end zone. The Eagles won the scrum and saved five points as it became a safety for Hershey.
From there, the Panthers rode the momentum. Early in the fourth quarter, Hershey stopped the Eagles on a fake punt attempt to get the ball at Southern Valley’s 10. Two plays later, Weir found Margritz for a touchdown that made it 20-8.
The Panther defense held Southern Valley one more time before getting the ball back with about five minutes left. The Eagles were able to hold Hershey to fourth down situations two times. But on both occasions, Southern Valley committed untimely penalties to give the Panthers a first down and allow them to run more time off the clock.
The Eagles didn’t get the ball back until 1:12 left in the game and Perkins was intercepted by Justin Weir a couple of plays later.
“I am awfully proud of the way our defensive backs played,” Smith said. “But everyone of them will say that the reason they were so successful was because we got pressure on the quarterback.”
After winning its first two games at home, Hershey goes on the road to Perkins County next week.
Southern Valley 8 0 0 0 - 8
Hershey 0 12 2 6 - 20
SV-Hunter Quinn 16 pass from Jeremiah Perkins (Perkins run), 11:15
H-Gaige Marshall 1 run (conversion failed), 6:51
H-Landan Maassen 30 pass from Logan Weir (conversion failed), :0
H-Safety, fumble recovered in end zone, 5:29
H-Josh Margritz 9 pass from Weir (kick blocked), 10:43