Panthers wake up in time to score easy win
MORRISDALE – After a slow start in the first quarter and half of the second, Northern Bedford still found a way to be ahead by 15 points at halftime.
But the Panthers scored 13 quick points, and quarterback Blake Over passed for 110 of his 274 yards in the second half, as Northern Bedford ran over West Branch, 40-14, Friday night.
“We have a lot of young receivers and Blake showed great leadership out there, as he has been all year,” Panther coach Jeff Batzel said. “He had another big night with running the ball and throwing the ball. And he had an interception too that put us in position for our final score.”
Northern Bedford was forced into punting on its first series, but made up for it on its second series as Over hit Austin Heck for a 25-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
“They were running sideline to sideline with him, and that’s all they did,” West Branch coach Lester Smeal said. “When they came back out in the second half, they ran sideline to sideline. We’re running the same guys back and forth. That caught up to us. We did what we wanted to do. As the game went on, it started to wear on us.”
After a West Branch punt, Northern Bedford was in a fourth-and-5 situation from its own 40. The Panthers were lined up to punt, but were stopped short by a yard for the first down on a run.
The field position set up the Warriors with their first touchdown, a Nate Kerlin 29-yard pass from Walker Williams.
However, the West Branch momentum was short-lived as Over scrambled for a 59-yard touchdown run on the first play after the kickoff to give the Panthers a 14-6 lead.
Jon Gorman caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Over to give the Panthers a 21-6 lead.
With a minute left in the half, the Warriors had a first-and-goal from the 4-yard line. After a 3-yard gain on first down, the Panther defense stood strong and stuffed three straight West Branch runs to go into the break.
“It was a big goal-line stand we had defensively,” Batzel said. “If that’s a one-touchdown game at halftime, they’ve got momentum going in, and that’s scary.”
After halftime, Over hooked up with Jacob Dasher for a 33-yard touchdown pass. West Branch fumbled on its next possession and the Panthers capitalized with an Elias Brallier touchdown run from 19 yards and a 34-6 lead.
Heck ran in the last Northern Bedford touchdown with an 8-yard score on a sweep to go ahead 40-6.
West Branch running back L.G. Smeal took in the second Warrior touchdown on a dive at the goal line. Jacob Brown scored the 2-point conversion on a reverse to set the final.
“They have a very strong running game and that has been, quite honestly, our weakness,” Batzel said. “We were pleased to do as well as we did against that running game. We were very concerned coming in with some injuries and so on. If they were able to run the ball successfully on us and match us in scoring, we could be in a dogfight.”
West Branch (0-7) travels to Mount Union next Friday. Northern Bedford (6-1) is at Bellwood-Antis.
“We know how to win,” Batzel said. “We have a good tradition at our school, and our kids don’t know anything else.”
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Northern Bedford7 14 13 6 – 40
West Branch0 6 0 8 – 14
NB-Heck 25 pass from Over (Bequeath kick) 4:29.
WB-Kerlin 29 pass from Williams (kick failed) 7:04.
NB-Over 59 run (Bequeath kick) 6:48.
NB-Gorman 10 pass from Over (Bequeath kick) 3:22.
NB-Dasher 33 pass from Over (Bequeath kick) 10:46.
NB-Brallier 19 run (kick blocked) 4:30.
NB-Heck 8 run, (kick failed), 9:46.
WB-L.G. Smeal 1 run, (Brown run), 3:37.
RUSHING: Northern Bedford-Over 7-87, Heck 13-60, Brallier 2-21, Hershberger 3-12, Kolinchak 3-2, Batzel 1-0, Team 1-(-1). West Branch-K. Smeal 25-119, 10-24, Rougeux 5-22, Williams 10-(-15).
PASSING: Northern Bedford-Over 11-18-0-274; Batzel 0-3-0-0. West Branch-Williams 4-9-1-80
RECEIVING: Northern Bedford-Dasher 3-107, Heck 4-97, Gorman 3-61, Hershberger 1-9. West Branch-Kerlin 3-73, Brown 1-7.
INTERCEPTIONS: Northern Bedford-Over.