By DENNIS HIGH
For the Morning News
ST. ANTHONY- When you think of the Panthers from Snake River, you think of tough, gritty farm kids. The Panthers showed their resilience Friday night as they outlasted the Cougars of South Fremont 20-16.
The Panthers start this season returning only two starters from last year’s squad, so they expected some growing pains as they played the opener.
“Most of these kids haven’t ever played in this situation; we have a lot of young kids, and I am really proud of the way they stepped up for us tonight,” said coach Jeff Dalley.
The Panthers started things off in the first quarter with a nine-yard touchdown run by junior Collin Bingham. The offense slowed down as that was the only score by either team in the first. Quarter number two began in tough Snake River fashion as Shad Walker forced a fumble on the shifty Junior Gonzalez of South Fremont. The Panthers promptly took the ball 65 yards and scored on a 30-yard pass from quarterback Kade Keller to David Serna for the six points.
Not to be outdone Gonzales showed why he is one of the top quarterbacks in the area as he took his team down the field and finished it off with a scramble and pass for 40 yards to Cade Schaat.
A tough defensive stand gave Gonzales another chance and he came through as he picked apart a confused Panther secondary, again connecting with Schaat for a big gain. Schaat then punched it in to tie the game.
The Panthers looked to be reeling as Keller followed by throwing an interception.
With three minutes to go in the half the Panthers needed to stop the bleeding as they faced the rolling offense. Led by senior Brad Coombs, they forced a turnover on downs to end the half. “That set of downs was huge for us, just to be able to stop that momentum” said Dalley.
The second half was a different song entirely as neither team got anything going offensively as the defenses tightened up.
With three minutes left to go in the third the Panthers leaned on their dynamic duo of Bingham and Coombs to get the ball moving. Bingham churned in gains of five and six time and again, setting up Coombs to get them down within scoring range. Keller then ran the ball into the end zone from the 10-yard line only to have it called back due to a penalty. Not to be deterred Keller hit the other Kade on the team from 20 yards out to put the Panthers up 20-14 as Kade Harral reeled in the touchdown pass. The Panthers missed the extra point attempt to end the quarter.
The fourth quarter provided its own excitement as the Cougars drove down to the 15-yard line threatening to take the lead with a minute left.
But the Panthers, led by Coombs at linebacker,
“Coach Dalley always tells us bend, don’t break, and that’s what we did," said Coombs of their stand.
The Panther held on to win as they took a safety to wind down the clock and held off the Cougars on the last play of the game.
“We did well as a team and I am really proud of my boys and like I said there are a lot of these kids who haven’t played in this level of a game yet,”Dalley said.
The Panthers entertain Star Valley of Wyoming next Friday night.