Foiled in its bid to score a touchdown late in the first half, the Massaponax football team wasted no time in establishing its dominance after the break, scoring four third-quarter touchdowns to pull away from a scrappy Riverbend team 49–21 Friday night.
“We knew they were going to be a tough team. They had coaches who either coached or played at Massaponax,” said junior quarterback Luke Morley, who scored the Panthers’ first four TDs and finished with 127 yards on 27 carries. “We knew what plays to run and how they reacted to the plays. ... [The offense] is going great; everybody does their job; it works.”
Morley rushed for three TDs and 55 yards in the first half, then electrified the visiting stands on his second carry of the second half. He broke away from a would-be tackler near the line of scrimmage, then outraced the secondary for a 55-yard scoring romp.
“The play got blown up. I was just trying hard not to go down,” Morley said.
Riverbend’s Jamarius Thomas gave the Bears a brief lift with his 51-yard scoring sprint down the home sideline, cutting the Panthers’ lead to 28–14. The Panthers (6–1, 3–0) answered as D’Juan Brady returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a TD, breaking away from a would-be tackler around the Bears’ 30-yard line.
“Special teams was a major concern,” Panthers coach Eric Ludden said. “The coaches have been working extremely hard on it. Our kickers have been working hard. Our special teams have taken a big emphasis and it’s nice to see the improvement.”
A botched snap from center on a punt attempt gave the Panthers good field position at the Bears’ 13 and Jacob Romero quickly scored his first of two touchdowns.
Both teams were plagued by penalties, combining for 254 yards on 27 accepted penalties.
Riverbend (1–6, 0–3) scored on its opening 78-yard drive to take an early 7–0 lead and stayed in contention through two quarters. Between quarters, the home fans cheered as their school was presented the annual “Sonic Bowl” trophy, signifying that the Bears won more athletic events against the Panthers during the 2018–19 school year.
Besides Thomas, Riverbend received solid efforts from Aiden Fisher and Tony Skinner. Fisher shook off five quarterback sacks, completing 10 of 15 pass attempts for 122 yards and two TDs. Skinner was his top target with seven catches for 88 yards.
“[Nathan] Yates is doing a great job here,” Ludden said of his former assistant, who is now the Bears’ head coach. “He’s a very solid coach and this program is going to be one to contend with, for sure.”
The Panthers anticipate a tough challenge next Friday when they entertain Mountain View. Following their bye week, the Bears will play host to Stafford on Oct. 25.
R—Tony Skinner 16-yard pass from Aiden Fisher (Carrick Proctor kick).
M—Luke Morley 2-yard run (Stephen Hudson kick).
M—Morley 7-yard run (Hudson kick).
M—Morley 1-yard run (Hudson kick).
M—Morley 55-yard run (Carson Pugh kick).
R—Jamarius Thomas 51-yard run (Proctor kick).
M—D’Juan Brady 88-yard kickoff return (Hudson kick).
M—Jacob Romero 13-yard run (Pugh kick).
M—Romero 10-yard run (Hudson kick).
R—Will Boroday 11-yard pass from Fisher (Proctor kick).
RUSHING: Massaponax—Luke Morley 11-127, 4 TDs; Mason Spencer 2-30; Derell Stokes 4-25; Joshua Hale 4-17; Mike Swain 1-12; Lydell Carroll 2-12; Quincy House 1-10; Elijah Christopher 2-9; Daniel Washington 2-6. Riverbend—Aiden Fisher 19-34; Jamarius Thomas 12-74, TD; Jalen Gilmore 2-2; Tony Skinner 6-(-31); Elijah Williams 1-(-8).
PASSING: Massaponax—Morley 3-6-0, 62 yards; Antoine Miller 0-1-0. Riverbend—Fisher 10-15-0, 122 yards, 2 TDs.
RECEIVING: Massaponax—Swain 1-35; Tyheem Kimble 1-14; Hale 1-13. Riverbend—Skinner 7-88, TD; Marquees Foster 2-23; Will Boroday 1-11, TD.