9/20/2017 10:09:00 AM Panthers hold off Pioneers for 15-6 win
Oblong’s Conner Potts (11) goes up high to knock a pass away from Palestine-Hutsonville’s Isaac York (11). After a scoreless first half, Oblong managed to score twice in the second half, while Palestine-Hutsonville scored just once, allowing the Panthers to come away with a 15-6 victory. (Josh Brown photo)
They can either be high-scoring shootouts or a low-scoring, grind-it-out type of contest.
Friday night's annual Shrine Game was the latter, with rivals Oblong and Palestine-Hutsonville going toe-to-toe for four quarters.
But, when the dust settled, the Panthers came away with the victory again, as the picked up a 15-6 win in Palestine.
"This was a defensive battle," OHS head coach Chad Pusey said. "It was well played on both sides. It wasn't easy, but we got it done. A win is a win and I'll take it."
"The kids played hard, we just had too many mistakes," PHS-HHS head coach Joe Stambaugh said. "It was two evenly-matched teams out there. We got max effort from our kids, but it just wasn't enough with all the mistakes."
The game was scoreless through the first half and there weren't a lot of chances to score, but both teams had opportunities.
Late in the first quarter, Oblong got a 54-yard run from Nate Meese that set the Panthers up at the 12-yard line. However, the Palestine-Hutsonville defense held strong and forced a turnover on downs.
Oblong then forced Palestine-Hutsonville to punt on their next possession and were set up in good field position at the Pioneer 31. However, they were unable to gain a first down and turned the ball back over to the Pioneers.
A few possessions later, Palestine-Hutsonville moved into Oblong territory, but an interception in the end zone by the Panthers' Zane Belford ended the scoring threat.
Palestine-Hutsonville drove into the red zone on their next possession, only to fumble and give the ball back to Oblong. However, the Pioneers' Keagan Pittenger intercepted a pass by Oblong's Logan Richards two plays later and returned it to the 16.
After a first down run by Levi Beard set the Pioneers up with first-and-goal at the six, Oblong stopped the Pioneers on four straight plays to keep the game scoreless.
It didn't take long for scoring to occur in the second half, as Belford took the opening kickoff and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown, then Jayce Fielder added the two-point conversion run to give Oblong an 8-0 lead just 12 seconds into the third quarter.
"We needed that kickoff return," Pusey said. "It was a huge spark for us."
Later in the third quarter, Palestine-Hutsonville would answer, as Isaac York - who was filling in for an injured Evan Newlin at quarterback - scrambled out of the pocket and weaved his way through the Oblong defense for a 26-yard touchdown run. However, the Pioneers could not convert the two-point conversion run and still trailed 8-6 with 6:45 left in the period.
A few minutes later, the Pioneers appeared to have taken the lead, as York intercepted a pass and again weaved his way to a 36-yard touchdown, but it was negated due to a block in the back penalty. The Pioneers were also unable to convert on the ensuing possession, eventually turning it over on downs at the 18 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Oblong took advantage, as they embarked on a 15-play, 82-yard drive that took over seven minutes off the clock. The drive culminated with a one-yard touchdown run by Richards and Jarrett Manhart added the extra point to give the Panthers a 15-6 lead with 4:47 remaining.
The Pioneers then threw an interception on the ensuing possession and Oblong was able to run the last four minutes of the clock to secure the win.
Going with the power running game was the deciding factor in the game for the Panthers, as they were able to control the ball and the clock in the fourth quarter. Oblong gained 108 of their 133 fourth-quarter yards on the ground and had the ball for all but 41 seconds in the final period.
"A lot of it was just wearing them down," Pusey said. "We relied on the power run game and it got us where we needed to be. We took the momentum in the fourth by running the ball right at them."
"Conditioning is a big key for us," Stambaugh said. "We have to be in better shape than our opponents. In the first half, we were outlasting them, but those long drives in the fourth quarter took a toll on us."
The game was also littered with mistakes, with the teams combining for seven turnovers (Palestine-Hutsonville 4, Oblong 3) and 15 penalties for 88 yards (PHS-HHS 9-50, OHS 6-38).
Oblong finished the game with 211 yards on the ground, led by Alex Ford with 87 yards on 20 carries. Meese gained 73 yards on three carries, but was limited due to an ankle injury suffered early in the game and Fielder added 61 yards on 15 attempts. Richards also had 34 yards passing and a rushing touchdown, with Manhart the leading receiver with 20 yards on two catches.
"We couldn't get our passing game going, but the running game got us where we wanted to be," Pusey said.
Palestine-Hutsonville finished the game with 217 yards of offense (122 passing, 95 rushing), with York running for 45 and a touchdown, while also throwing for 28 yards and catching two passes for 12. Newlin completed 10-21 passes for 94 yards, Pittenger was the leading receiver with four catches for 61 yards, Matt Funk added 36 yards on the ground and Ruger Berry caught three passes for 30 yards.
"I thought that was the best defensive game we've had," Stambaugh said. "But, offensive continues to be an issue. We are not scoring as much as we should be. We also have to cut down on the penalties and other mistakes."