Don Kuhnen, AP Sports; Photo Courtesy Jessie Otten
Turnovers and penalties again proved to be too much to overcome for the EP Panthers Friday night as they dropped their Homecoming game 20-7 to the Newman Comets. Four turnovers and 8 penalties for 68 yards offset a strong defensive effort as the Panthers dropped to 0-5 on the season.
Newman started the contest receiving the ball but after 3 plays were forced to punt to EP which started on their own 48. The Panthers then turned it back over to Newman on an interception at the Comet 25. Neither team was able to generate much offense in the first quarter as both teams only managed 1 first down. The Panthers started a drive from their own 20 late in the quarter and behind some big gains from Conner Keegan, Demetree Larsen and Justus Hough, moved the ball into Newman territory and when Jeremiah Kochevar found Larsen open on a screen pass the Panthers had it on the Comet 7. After a penalty, a Panther pass was tipped and intercepted on the 6 yard line stopping the drive with 6:30 left in the half.
Newman put together a drive of their own and after converting three 3rd downs into first downs, moved into Panther territory. A big sack by linebacker Luke Otten stopped the Comet drive and kept the game scoreless at halftime.
EP started the second half with a nice 20-yard tackle breaking run by Otten but the play was brought back by a holding penalty. Two plays later the Panthers fumbled the ball to Newman. The Comets had a bad snap and quarterback fumble and were faced with a 3rd and 26 but converted it on a 38-yard pass down the middle of the field into Panther territory. Newman finished the drive reaching pay dirt on an 8 yard pass and the conversion run made it 8-0.
A bloop kickoff was then recovered by Newman giving them the ball back on the Panther 29. A pass from there went through a Panther defenders hands and was caught by a Comet receiver to put Newman up 14-0 with 3:56 left in the third.
A Panther 3 and out gave Newman the ball again. Keegan then gave the Panther crowd some hope with an interception on the Panther 39. Kochevar connected with Larsen on a short pass and Demetree broke open for a 51 yard play to the Comet 6. Three runs moved it to the 3 yard line where Kochevar and Larsen hooked up for an EP touchdown. The kick by Alex Lindell made it 14-7 Newman with 10:34 left in the game.
A long return of the kickoff and a personal foul penalty gave Newman the ball on the Panther 30. Two plays later, Newman scored to make it 20-7 and halt the Panther momentum. The fourth quarter continued with neither team moving deep into the other’s territory. The game ended with EP coming up short on a fourth down play at the Newman 31.
Panther head coach Tyler Whitebread continues to be optimistic halfway through the season. “We are so close. A couple of bad bounces and a couple special team miscues really hurt us tonight. Many of the guys were limping in the fourth quarter but we continued to play hard. Hoping for some better success the second half of the season.”
Newman’s defense lived up to their billing as the Panthers were held to just 80 yards rushing, Larsen led with 10 carries for 29 yards while Hough added 5 for 28. Kochevar had his best night passing as he was 11-16 for130 yards, 2 INTs and 1TD. Larsen caught 5 passes for 75 yards and 1 TD. A strong Panther defense was led by Gaven Adams with 9 tackles and Amen Barron had 6.
The Panthers travel to Orion next Friday for a 7 o’clock matchup.