Mistakes and missed opportunities plagued the Paschal Panthers (0-7) as they lost to their district rivals, the Weatherford Kangaroos (2-5), 35-10 on Friday night at Farrington Field.
It was Homecoming for the Panthers, a night always filled with pageantry and the memorable events associated with this annual high school tradition. Paschal crowned a Homecoming king and queen, and the Paschal booster club received $2,500 for collecting 5,253 cans in their canned food drive with Weatherford. Fireworks filled the sky after halftime, and the Panthers christened new all-black uniforms in front of their largest home crowd of the year.
Unfortunately, all those celebrations would not produce a victory for the winless Panthers.
Paschal started strong on both sides of the ball. However, the Kangaroos blocked a 27-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter and recovered the ball at midfield, starting a landslide of mistakes and penalties that put the Panthers in a hole that they ultimately could not dig themselves out of.
“That field goal that they blocked was huge. It gave them a ton of momentum and we never really got it back,” wide receiver Ben Noel said. “It’s an emotional game. When you dislike a team like them that much and you’re getting your [butt] whipped on Homecoming, it’s devastating. You tend to just want to punch somebody in the face.”
The Panthers were not alone in piling up penalties. Together both teams accounted for 28 penalties, 13 of which were charged to Paschal. The Panthers continually found themselves in prime position to score or make a huge play, but dropped passes, fumbled the ball, incurred penalties, or had other mistakes that got in the way.
“Weatherford is very well coached and we always know every time we play them it will be a good game. But that being said, I think our boys beat our boys. I don’t know that the other team beat us tonight,” head coach Matt Cook said. “We left 10 points off the board that we should have gotten in the first half. Who knows — if we would have scored they might not have had any points at all [at halftime].”
Weatherford quarterback Stephen Pitts was able to exploit the Panthers through the air at certain points of the game, despite the ‘Roos run-heavy offensive style. While he threw an interception to Paschal defensive back Alfredo Retana, Pitts completed 50 percent of his passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Jake Bartels had the best game out of Weatherford’s stable of running backs. He showed exceptional breakaway speed and gained 66 yards and a touchdown in the face of a strong defensive effort from Paschal.
Cook said that the defensive line was the strength of Weatherford’s team. Two of the ‘Roos five touchdowns were scored by defensive players: linebacker Slade Hodge recovered a fumble in the endzone and defensive lineman Andrew Cape had a one yard touchdown run reminiscent of William Perry from the Chicago Bears of the ‘80s.
Quarterback Chris Hanson had his best statistical game of the season. Hanson spread the ball around, going 23 of 43 for 264 yards and a touchdown. He had a fumble, but no interceptions.
“The kid plays hard, as hard as anybody I’ve ever coached. And he works really hard,” Cook said. “If we had a couple of those dropped passes go our way, it might have been the biggest night of his career.”
“I’m proud [of my performance], but as a whole I’m not happy,” Hanson said.” We needed a win and to come out on top as a team.”
Ben Noel, Brian Munoz, and Alfredo Retana were the primary beneficiaries of Hanson’s career day with 80, 89 and 60 receiving yards respectively.
Moving forward, the Panthers enter the most unforgiving stretch of their season. They will face Arlington High, Arlington Bowie, and Arlington Martin. These three teams are consistently the best in their district and among the best in the state. This year is no exception.
“One thing we pride ourselves on is we will give them our best shot. Our kids fight and our kids play hard,” Cook said. “We will give everybody we play these next three games that much.”
The Panthers begin their run through the District 4 gauntlet when they face the Arlington Colts on Thursday, Oct. 20, at Cravens Field.