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Cheltenham Bests Quakertown in Panther Battle

Written by: on Friday, September 17th, 2010. Follow Don Leypoldt on Twitter.


For the September 23rd Bucks County Herald

So close.  The Quakertown Panther offense came so very close.

Three times, on a soggy Thursday night at Cheltenham, the Q-Panthers had first and goal.  Yet Quakertown managed just six points out of those red zone incursions.

So close.  The Quakertown Panther defense came so very close.

For over three quarters, Quakertown checked Cheltenham’s two blurs: wide receiver Dan Rouse, who averages over 32 yards per catch, and running back Aquil Reed.  Yet on consecutive offensive plays in the fourth quarter, Reed burst 80 yards on a crossing pattern for a touchdown pass followed by Rouse going 97 yards to paydirt on a vertical.

“Our game plan was to try and contain them, make them run between the tackles and stay over the top of them,” recalled Quakertown coach George Banas.  “I think for the first most part we did except for about three or four plays.”

The scores- followed by Reed’s ten yard touchdown scamper with 2:00 left in the game- gave the C-Panthers 19 unanswered points. Cheltenham improved to 3-0 in the 25-12 victory; Quakertown fell to 1-2.

Cheltenham first started at the Q-38, after Quakertown botched a punt snap.  Twice, C-Panther quarterback Kenneth Cropper converted fourth down passes to Rouse to sustain the drive.  The second, a 24-yard floater gave the C-Panthers a touchdown, although Quakertown defensive end Dylan Gossler blocked the point after try.

Junior quarterback Zac Gravelle personally accounted for 43 yards with his feet or arm in the Q-Panthers’ answer.  But on fourth down at the one, Rouse stuffed a Quakertown running play short of the goal line.

Using the pass to set up the run when Quakertown got the ball back, Gravelle gashed the C-Panther line for a 68 yard scramble, to the C-10.  On another fourth and goal at the one, Banas called running back John Keller’s number and Keller slithered into the end zone.

“We just thought it was gut check.  That time it worked,” Banas explained.  “Two other times, we had first and goal and we don’t (convert).  That tells a lot.”

The game remained tied at 6 until 14 seconds left in the third quarter.  On a drive set up by Nick Perrine’s interception, Q-Panther running back Joe Able burst up the right sideline for a 40 yard touchdown run.  The ensuing missed point after gave Quakertown a 12-6 lead.  It had taken 11 quarters for Cheltenham to finally fall behind in the 2010 season.

And it didn’t last long.  Four plays later, Reed raced to the end zone on the aforementioned 80 yard pass.  Again, Gossler and Keller blocked the point after try.

Keller (10 carries for 54 yards) provided some truly special teams on the kickoff, returning it 48 yards to the C-27.  But on a fourth and goal, Gravelle’s pass was swatted away.

Pinned at their own three, Cropper found Rouse racing down the sidelines; the touchdown gave the C-Panthers an 18-12 lead halfway through the fourth quarter.  Reed’s score three minutes later iced the game.

The C-Panthers rolled up 409 total yards, nearly half of them coming on two plays.

The Q-Panthers lost over 1,800 rushing yards with the June graduations of Tony Latronica and Tyler Burke.  Quakertown had to change schemes for their altered personnel and Gravelle pilots their spread offense well.  The signal caller stands 6’2” and has a strong arm.

“It’s a different look but that is what we needed to do,” Gravelle noted.  “Our offense isn’t what last year’s offense was.  We don’t have the players we had so we had to adjust.”

Gravelle completed nine passes on Thursday and he still has not thrown an interception in 52 2010 attempts.  For the year, he has thrown for 258 yards while averaging 8.5 yards per carry on his 40 rushes.

“He was a sophomore who got hurt in the Hatboro-Horsham JV game last year.  He didn’t play the rest of the year,” Banas described his quarterback.  “He is still a third game starter and he will make third game starter mistakes.  But body-wise and mechanics wise (there is a lot to like).”

Quakertown has been On the Road so much that former defensive coordinator Banas had to beat out Jack Kerouac for the head coaching job.  Last week, the Panthers traveled to Pocono Mountain East, where they won 35-28 when Nick Barndt snagged a Gravelle touchdown pass late in the game.  This week, it was Cheltenham.  Next week, they traverse to Downingtown West.

Throw in their playoff game at Avon Grove last November and Quakertown has logged 450 miles in four of their last five away contests.

“It’s tough, but hey we needed it and we’ll learn from it,” said Gravelle on the team’s travels.  We’ll come back (home and) we’ll bring it.”

Around Bucks County: New Hope Solebury (3-0) faced their stiffest challenge of the year on Thursday- reigning Bicentennial League champion Lower Moreland- and all the Lions did was beat them 35-0.  Running back Julian Kaminoff has four special teams touchdowns this year but tips of the hat go to an NH-S defense that yields just 135 yards and five points per game…C.B West improved to 3-0 for the first time in a decade with their 48-14 pasting of Wissahickon.  Max Stella’s 101-yard pick-six highlighted the win.  Senior RB Rashaad Williams and junior tailback Jake Poeske averaged 9.3 yards a carry and have 10 rushing touchdowns between them…C.B. South improved to 2-1 with a 51-35 shootout win versus Norristown.  Junior QB Mike Johns has passed for 333 yards and junior running back Chris Veal has rushed for 252 more in the Titans’ consecutive victories.

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