Panthers pull off gutsy gridiron win

No leading scorer. Bodies dropping like the autumn leaves. No problem for the Vernon Panthers

No leading scorer. Bodies dropping like the autumn leaves.

No problem for the Vernon Panthers.

Sean Smith’s squad gutted out a 27-8 victory over the host Valleyview Vikings in Interior Senior Varsity Football League action Friday in Kamloops.

Already without their leading scorer Levi Nicholas, and a host of others, the Panthers lost three more two-way starters in the first half and another in the second, which severely tested an already thin squad.

The Cats got on the board early, scoring on their first two drives of the game on the legs of quarterback Justin Haverkamp (one-yard and 12-yard runs), and led by six at the break.

“The half gave us a chance to regroup, re-assign positions and try to get assignments correct,” said Smith. “We were not executing our game plan correctly on defence and the half gave us a chance to get things straight.”

The Panthers opened the third quarter with a highlight reel 73-yard catch and run major by TE Ben Hladik, followed by a gritty 21-yard TD run by Grade 9 tailback Charles Lemay.

Holding the Vikings offence to zero passing yards and not allowing them inside the red zone in the second half allowed the Panthers to wind down the clock in the fourth quarter.

“Both coach (Dave) Tetrault and I are very proud of the way our guys finished this game,” said Smith. “We were down to our third string Grade 9 quarterback (Thomas Hyett) and fourth string Grade 9 tailback in the fourth quarter, and we continued to move the ball and put points on the board. Our reserves competed and put away the game for us.”

Hladik, a Grade 11 defensive standout, showed why CIS scouts are drooling over him, registering eight tackles and two quarterback sacks.

Defensive tackle, Tyler Riva contributed seven tackles and rookie Gabe Turner added six.

“Tyler Riva had his best game as a Panther,” said Smith. “Ben is without question the best defensive player I have seen in any of our games this year and Zach Hyer (defensive back/wide receiver) is  doing so many things for us to make up for our injury situation.”

The Panthers (2-0 in league) enter a much-needed bye week where they hope to get healthy for a first-place showdown with South Kamloops (Oct. 30, 3:30pm at Panther Field).

The Fulton Maroons fell 52-7 to the host Hugh Boyd Trojans in an exhibition senior boys match Friday in Richmond.

“We were simply outclassed by them in all phases of the game,” said Fulton head coach Mike Scheller. “They are bigger, faster and tougher than us. We could not stop them.”

Ethan Eisenhauer scored Fulton’s only major on a 68-yard interception return. Jeff Han booted the convert.

Scheller praised the play of JJ Heaton at defensive tackle and Eric Yildiz-David at linebacker.