NAUGATUCK – The Tug Valley Panthers (3-2) had a difficult time handling the Tolsia Rebels (4-1) run game on Friday night and lost by a final score of 36-16.
The Panthers shot out of the gate strong but was unable to keep the momentum. Tolsia out-gained the Panthers with 253-yards of total offense to 189-yards for Tug Valley.
The Panthers started off strong by taking an early lead of 8-0 when Noah Lucas rolled into the end zone from 4-yards out with 5:12 left to play in the first quarter. There were back to back penalties during the two point conversion where one took the Panthers back and one took the Panthers forward but Lucas eventually crossed the goal line to give the Panthers an eight point lead.
The Rebels received the ball and put together a solid drive to land 4-yards out with less than a minute to play in the first quarter. It was Logan Presley who made the first score for Tolsia on a keeper to the right to put the Rebels on the board. A two point pass attempt was foiled by the Panthers and the score stood at 8-6.
The score would stay as both teams fought hard defensively until Presley connected with Johnathan Johnson for a 26-yard TD. The Rebels added the two-point conversion and took the lead at 14-8 with 5:06 left to play before halftime.
The Rebels would go on to score once more before halftime after Tug valley laid the ball on the ground and Tolsia recovered. The Rebels worked the ball down to the 1-yard line thanks to Presley and great effort on a keeper sweep to the right side. Presley ended up scoring on the drive from 1-yard out and Jordan Johnson added the two-point conversion to make the score 22-8 at halftime.
Heading into halftime it was clear the Panthers would have to make some adjustments. The Rebels were defending the run better than any team the Panthers had faced. While the crowd waited for play to resume the Tug Valley Marching Band entertained with a superb rendition of enter the samurai.
The beating of the band’s drum’ still echoed through the stadium as the Rebels and Panthers returned to play. The Panthers were ready, or so they thought. Tolsia, who had won the coin toss at the start of the game, was set to kick off. A slippery squib kick up the middle allowed the Rebels to regain possession of the ball. The game continued back and forth with change of possession happening frequently.
At the 6:04 mark Tug valley’s leading rusher, Dawson Elia, finally found some running room and dashed 82-yards to pay-dirt. Blankenship added the pass to Blake Dingess for the two-point conversion and the Panthers looked to be staging a rally with a score of 22-16.
Neither team would score in the remainder of third quarter but change of possession occurred frequently with fumbles and punts.
The Panthers entered the fourth quarter with possession from a Tolsia Fumble but could not get a drive going and was forced into a turn over on downs. The Rebels ate up a lot of clock in the fourth and was able to score with 3:25 remaining in the fourth quarter when Presley once again crossed the goal line from 7-yards out. The two-point conversion failed but the rebels still had a commanding lead of 28-16.
The Panthers tried frantically to cut away at the Rebels lead, they even pulled out the vintage flea flicker play with Levi Davis and Elia but Tolsia would seal the game when Logan Roseberry intercepted a pass from Blankenship and returned the ball 45-yards for a pick-six.
The final score was 36-16.
The Panthers rushed for 134-yards on 26 carries. Elia once again led the way for the Panthers with 89-yards on 10 carries with one TD. Lucas had 26-yards on nine carries and one TD. Blankenship went seven for 19-yards on rushing and 6-for-9 on passing with 55-yards and two interceptions.
Lucas led the Panthers on defense with 11 tackles. Chandler Carey finished with nine tackles, one tackle for a loss of yardage, and one fumble recovery. Parker Brewer had six tackles, two for a loss of yardage, and one forced fumble. Davis had four tackles and one fumble recovery.
The Panthers will look to shake this one off as they switch their focus to Buffalo.
Scores by quarters:
Tolsia: 6 16 0 14 – 36
Tug: 8 0 8 0 – 16