NAUGATUCK – The Route 52 showdown part. 2 will take place this Friday as No. 13 Tug Valley travels to No. 4 Tolsia for the opening round of the Class-A WVSSAC playoffs.
Thanks to a win from the Man Hillbillies over Van last Friday night the stars have aligned and decided Tug Valley will face rival Tolsia in the opening round of the playoffs. Many Panther fans had the news figured out directly after the game between Man and van on Friday. The Panthers are ready to avenge their regular season loss to the Rebels. The Rebels dropped from the top spot in the Class-A rankings to No.4 after losing last week to Class-A Williamstown.
Tug Valley had finished the regular season with three losses and seven wins. The first loss came in the season opener as the Panthers gave up a last second victory to the Sherman Tide. The Panthers followed with three multiple score wins before beginning a two game losing streak that began with Tolsia.
The first meeting with Tolsia gave the Panthers an idea of what they needed to work on. After jumping out to a quick 8-0 nothing lead the rebels returned fire with 22 unanswered points. The Panthers gave up big penalties in bad situations and played as much against themselves as they did against Tolsia.
The Panthers jumped back within a score in the third quarter from a big 82-yard run from Dawson Elia but continued to give up first down after first down to Tolsia’s make-shift offense.
Those who followed the Rebels last season know that they beat Mingo Central in the quarterfinals to earn a trip to face Class-AA defending champion Bridgeport and ultimately came up short. The Rebels were fueled by a veteran line, stingy defense, and a multitude of skill players. Last year’s QB and leading rusher graduated and the duties of QB fell to senior Logan Presley.
The Rebels have a strong defense, which has improved since their last loss which was to Mingo Central in the regular season, and they were able to replace enough linemen to make them solid up front. The skill positions are run oriented; the same as Tug Valley. Tolsia utilized their rushing attack and the Panthers failed to answer. Both teams have improved since the meeting.
The Panthers defense gave up 253-yards of total offense during the last game with 204 of those yards to the Rebels rushing attack.
Tug Valley assistant coach Justin Crawford said, “Our defense has definitely improved since the last meeting. We played them tough in the first game we just need a couple more big plays and we could have had the win. But, that’s not what happened and we know it’s going to be a tall task this game. The team is excited to get the chance to avenge the loss from earlier in the season.”
The Panthers also have a good mid-set heading into the game. Crawford said, “As of right now everyone is 0-0. Everything is equal and we are going to take it week by week and see how the chips fall.”
The Panthers rushing attack, led by Elia, is not the concern for the game. The main concern for the Panthers is execution. The Panthers had seven penalties during the last meeting for a total of 60-yards. Many of these penalties were drive ‘enders’ that kept the Panthers from getting into the end zone. The panthers have the skill, they have grit; they just need the focus to not let the Rebels get ahead.
The Panthers can control the game and the clock against Tolsia.
With the game being played at Tolsia it won’t be that far of a trip for Tug fans who want to go cheer on the Panthers. A quick drive up Route 52 will offer all the answers to the biggest questions, and could offer and advancement stamp for the Panthers should they best the Rebels this Friday.
Crawford ended by saying, “This being a close game we know our fans will be out in full force. We know it’s hard for people to make it to the games across the state but people always find a way up fifty-two.”
(William Plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext. 2274 or at [email protected] on on twitter @sidplaster.)