St. Vincent Pallotti Panthers are still undefeated under new head coach Ian Thomas, as they defeated Avalon Black Knights 22-20, on Friday night in front of a packed home crowd.
“We never stopped fighting. We made mistakes early, the guys got it together as the game went on and we sort of figured out what they were doing, nipped that in the butt and covered it,” said Thomas. “They have so many athletes that you have to worry about, so it’s tough to spread all the guys around the field to cover everything.”
The Panthers were able to get on the board first with a Ben Stewart 12 yard touchdown to James Patterson early in the first quarter.
Pallotti's defense would strike first; as Eddie O’Neil forced the first turnover of the game on a fumble right as he was going in for the touchdown.
The Black Knights defense would answer back on its next defensive stand, as they were able to get pressure on Stewart, forcing the first sack of the game and a Panthers punt.
On its next chance on offense, Avalon was finally able to get its offensive in rhythm, leading to a Daqwan Hill 6 yard TD run with 8 minutes to play in the second quarter. The Black Knights would fail on the two point conversion, trailing 7-6.
After scoring on its first offensive drive of the game, the Panthers struggled to get much offense going the remaining of the first half. However, late in the second quarter, the Panthers put together their most efficient drive of the night, aided by a personal foul call on 4th and long by the Black Knights, Stewart threw his second touchdown of the half, this time a 10 yard slant to wide receiver Cam Sullivan-Brown, extending the Panthers lead 14-7 going into halftime.
On the ensuing kick, the Black Knights Jaron Woodyard would return the kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, the play was called back due to a holding a call. Every time the Black Knights got themselves back into the game, a self-inflicted mistake derailed the process.
“We constantly, constantly beat ourselves. Turning the ball over, over 10 penalties, whether the refs were right or not that all adds up.” said Avalon head coach Tyree Spinner, “It makes me more mad, cause it’s not other teams beating us. No matter how good they are in reality, it’s us beating ourselves and that’s what boils me.”
As the second half kicked off, Woodyard was able to redeem himself from earlier with another kickoff return for a touchdown. This time though, Woodyard would go 89 yards as he helped tie the game at 14, just seconds into the half.
In the third quarter, it was wide receiver Sullivan-Brown for the Panthers who stepped up big, but not in the way many would have expected.
Sullivan-Brown had two interceptions in the quarter, including an interception that set up the Panthers only scoring drive of the second half.
Running back Jaret Patterson was a beast on the ground all night, racking up more than 100 yards rushing, but it was his 42 yard run that set up his score from the one yard line two plays later. The Panthers converted the two point conversion and led 22-14.
The Black Knights answered right back as quarterback Isaiah Robinson was able to get into a rhythm for one of the few times during the night. He was able to find his favorite target in Trevon Diggs for a two yard touchdown reception, cutting the Panthers lead to 22-20 after failing on the two point conversion.
In the fourth quarter, it looked as if Avalon had put the mistakes behind them, and was on the verge of taking the lead. The Black Knights attempted a fake punt and got the first down, held the ball for nearly eight minutes, before a fourth and long where Sullivan-Brown was able to break up a pass intended for Diggs and force a turnover on downs.
“I’m definitely most proud of that break up towards the end, even though they got the ball back, it turned the momentum to our side and that was a big part of the game for us,” said Sullivan-Brown. “I wanted to match-up with him [Trevon Diggs] to see where my skills were at, and I definitely know I can match-up with anybody in the country now, if he’s one of the top receivers I know I can match-up with anybody at cornerback, also at receiver I feel I can match-up as well.”
While the Black Knights defense was able to step up and force a quick three and out to give its offense one last chance, it was a Panthers offensive star that made the big defensive play.
After an Eddie O’Neil sack forced another fourth and long for Avalon, Jaret Patterson would break up a pass intended for Trevon Diggs, sealing the victory and keeping Pallotti undefeated on the season.