by David Tesitor
STRASBURG- The John Mall Panthers traveled to Strasburg to face the Byers Bulldogs in the first round of the ′sweet sixteen′ football fall classic. The Panthers lost in a lopsided game, 45-12, but never gave up until the final horn sounded.
At kickoff, the temperature reached eighty degrees, which itself created problems for both teams. The Bulldogs won the opening toss and deferred the ball to the Panthers to start the game.
John Mall took the opening kickoff to the 37-yard line where they began their attack. Dylan Tenorio ran three straight plays up the middle to give the Cats the pass near the midfield mark. On the next play, the Dogs’ Jared Martin sacked Charlie Whitehead for a 12-yard loss. The sack was one of six against Whitehead as the Dogs chased the Cats out of the pocket all day long. The drive stalled after a fake punt by Whitehead was called back for holding, forcing the Panthers to punt for real, setting up the Dogs’ first possession from the 12.
From there, it did not take long for the Byers Big Dog, Jordon Dodge, to show the crowd why he is the top-rated passer in the state. He helped drive his team 88 yards for the game’s first score on a 22-yard pass to Micah Trahan. Trahan, a 6 ‘190 pound senior caused trouble for the Panther defenders all afternoon as he completed the afternoon with 4 touchdowns: 83 yards on the ground and 46 in the air.
The Panthers would not see the red-zone until their fifth drive of the afternoon. It happened when Whitehead returned a punt to the Bulldog 19-yard line. Five plays later on a fourth and inches, Tenorio swept the left side for the score with 1:47 remaining in the half. By now, the Bulldogs were leading 21-6.
The second half was equally frustrating for the Panthers as the Bulldog defense had a read on Whitehead, forcing him to scramble out of the pocket several times. Whitehead did not have a chance to find his open receivers all afternoon until Whitehead was able to connect with Brian Aguirre on a 12-yard strike late in the game.
On the other side of the ball, Byers executed an almost flawless game plan, which created havoc for the Panther defense. Dodge utilized his stable of receivers and backs to put up 458 yards of offense.
Coach Berger passed along his thoughts about the game and the season overall. "I was very impressed with Byers. They were by the far the most physical team we played all season. They had control of the game from the very beginning and were never able to challenge them …. I was happy with our pass defense for the most part. We were unable to put any pressure on their QB (Dodge), so he was able to sit in there and find the open guy. I liked our game plan going in. I am very proud of our team at the way they kept fighting to the end of the game."
Well over one hundred Panther fans traveled to Strasburg. The Panthers finished the season 6-4, losing a disappointing three in a row, but the fact remains that they made the playoffs for the first time in ten years. Coach Berger has brought this team a long way to a dominating offensive powerhouse and a near league championship and playoff appearance.
Berger also praised the seniors on the team, "We had a good senior class that we are really going to miss. All these guys were major contributors this season….” They were Stuart Pino, Taz Valdez, Dominic Pino, Brian Aguirre, Charlie Whitehead, Steven Ruiz, and Carl Vigil.