NAUGATUCK – This Friday night the Tug Valley Panthers will strive to keep their playoff hopes alive against visiting Mount View.
The Panthers enter the game fresh off of a win over Valley (Fayette) last week; Mount View enters the game fresh off of a loss to the Tolsia Rebels. Last week the Panthers were ranked No.20 in the Class-A scene and Mount view was ranked No.16. The Panthers will not get many points from the win over No. 40 Valley but the Mount View Golden Knights will definitely drop after losing to Tolsia.
The top of the Class-A rankings is muddled at best and expectations are that a 6-4 season will not provide a trip into the show. The Panthers know this and are heading into the game looking to stay above water. After three losses in the season to Sherman, Tolsia , and Buffalo the Panthers need to win out to not let the post season decision land on points from the season.
Panther head coach Tony Clusky said, “We are still alive but we need to win out to stay in. This will be homecoming week for us so I expect a big crowd. I’m confident that our players will give us all they have until the very end.”
Mount View is the Panthers test this week and a stout test it will be. Mount View is currently setting with a record of 3-3 after a week 4 BYE week set them a game behind most teams. The Golden Knights have lost to Man (45-440, Point Pleasant (65-22), and Tolsia (40-22).
Coach Clusky said, “They are very athletic and get after you on defense. They have several players who create big plays for them.”
What can be said about the Golden Knights is they have a decent offense. Led by junior QB Elijah Collier the Golden Knights have a good run/ pass balance. Although the Golden Knights failed to get much going against Tolsia last week when they finished with only 33-yards rushing and one TD on 26 total carries. The air attack was what kept them afloat with Collier going 7 for 22 for 141-yards with two TD’s and two interceptions.
Collier has been solid throughout the Golden Knights season with 100+ yards passing in all six contests. He had over a 50% completion rate in the games against Oak hill and Notre Dame which the Golden Knights won both times.
In the backfield Joseph Hayes has led the way most of the year but the Golden Knights have only posted 200+ yard games in only two contests this year. The good news for the Panthers is that Mount View has been known to catch the fumble bug from time to time with eight fumbles on the season, four of which was against Tolsia.
On average Mount View gets about 250-yards per game, they average 36 points per game. Defensively they can be bothersome as well with nine sacks on the season and six interceptions; four of those interceptions were in the game against River View in their season opener.
The Golden Knights don’t have a reliable place kicker to nail the extra point and have only made eight this season on 13 attempts.
To back Collier and his legitimacy he had 706-yards passing on the season with 43 completions on 105 attempts. He has passed for 10 TD’s with only three interceptions averaging about 117-yards a game giving him an overall completion average of 41 percent.
Colliers has two favorite targets through the air which is 6-foot-2, 208 lbs. senior Jaquan Imes who has hauled in 15 receptions this year for 310-yards and four receiving TD’s. On the other side is 6-foot-7, junior receiver Ariac Gross who has hauled in 11 catches for 204-yards and four TD’s.
The Golden Knights leading rusher, Hayes also catches a few out of the backfield and has compiled 126-yards on six receptions and one TD.
Hayes splits the workload in the backfield with Elijah Barner who also plays middle linebacker. Hayes leads the team in scoring and has 475-yards on 72 carries with eight rushing TDs. Barner has 301-yards rushing on 57 carries with seven rushing TDs.
Imes and Barner lead the team in tackles along with nose guard Deon Diggs. Diggs is nearly 300 lbs. and does some damage to opposing offensive lines.
The Panthers will need to keep Diggs in check for their rushing game to get off the ground. With the Panthers straight up run game they could see problems against the Golden Knights and their stout middle of the field presence.
The Panthers haven’t relied on much of a down field air attack this season which should take the Golden Knights ability to blitz their safeties out of the picture. The Tolsia Rebels proved that Mount Views rushing attack can be stopped and the passing attack can be hindered. The Panthers defense will have the duty of doing the same while finding a way to the corners for rushing room.
Junior running back Dawson Elia has been the Panthers workhorse this season, although Elia runs out of the backfield beside QB Johnathan Blankenship he can be used in the split end position to get around the corner. If the Panthers want to avoid Diggs and Barner, that may be the ticket.