ROXANA — The Pana Panthers proved to be too much for the Roxana Shells on Friday at Charlie Raich Field.
Pana cruised out to a 20-0 lead at the half and went on to a 27-6 win over the Shells in Week 2. With the win, the Panthers improved to 2-0 while Roxana dipped to 0-2.
“We struggled a little bit defensively in the first half, but we played better in the second half,” Roxana head coach Pat Keith said. “Also, offensively we just couldn't get anything going. If you'd have told me we'd hold them to 20 points going into the fourth quarter I would have thought the game would have been in our favor. We've just got to play better, more intensity, execute better. It's disappointing. I know the kids are disappointed and I'm disappointed for sure, but it's Week 2 so we've got time to get on the board and get better.”
Pana head coach Al Stupek was stoked to get the win over the Shells. A year ago Roxana went to Pana and won 37-35 with a late field goal and Stupek said his group of seniors have struggled with the Shells since youth leagues.
“Preseason Roxana was one of the top two teams in the conference and they can win seven off in a row here, I really believe that,” Stupek said. “I think Pat Keith does a marvelous job with them and I wish him the best of luck. Our seniors have not beaten this group of Roxana seniors I don't think through JFL, so this is a pretty sweet win in that regard, but also it's getting us to 2-0 which is a pretty nice place to be.”
The Panthers pummeled Staunton 50-0 in Week 1 and quarterback Rhett Zahradka made sure that wasn't a fluke on Friday. Zahradka tossed two touchdowns through the air and ran for two more to be the catalyst for Pana in the win.
He finished 12 for 18 for 320 yards and two TDs in the passing game, while running for 19 and 13 yard scores in the ground game.
Stupek praised Zahradka and the supporting cast around him for putting together a strong start for the Panthers.
“Rhett is a special athlete and he directs the offense. This is his third year starting as a quarterback, so he's got a pretty good grasp on the offense,” Stupek said. “But we've got a lot of talented fringe people with Adam Miller, Joe Ingram, Jake Franklin, I could go on and on. I like our skill position people and our two halfbacks finish runs as well as anybody I think.”
It didn't take Pana long to climb onto the scoreboard. Roxana went three-and-out on its first series to start the game and the Panthers answered. On the third play of their drive Zahradka hooked up with Miller on a 65-yard strike down the Pana sideline as the Shells' defender got turned around on the play.
Jake McLeod connected on the extra point and at the 9:11 mark of the first quarter the Panthers were up 7-0.
Pana scored again on a Zahradka 19-yard keeper around the end at the 4:27 mark of the second quarter with McLeod's kick making it 14-0. Then with 1:51 left in the half, Zahradka found Franklin for a 14-yard strike. The kick failed and the Panthers led 20-0 entering the locker room.
Roxana's forgettable first half included an interception and not being able to muster a first down until midway through the second quarter on a 28-yard run by quarterback Chance Foss.
“They got some big plays on us and we didn't have a first down until the second quarter,” Keith said. “To be honest it's just execution and doing things right. I think we need to be a little more physical, play hard, we were probably a little flat and I don't know why. We all need to reevaluate where we're headed here and how we get there.”
Coming out of the break the Shells looked better and Pana struggled with some faulty snaps leading to bad field position.
Jarod Foiles, Cody McMillan and Ryan Harris each sacked Zahradka in the third quarter and Marcus Hartnett picked him off. Neither team was able to find the end zone in the third.
Roxana sliced into the Pana lead in the fourth quarter though.
Blake Vandiver capped off a 10-play, 65-yard drive with a three yard plunge at the 9:00 mark of the fourth quarter. The Shells couldn't convert on a two-point try, but cut the deficit to 20-7.
Roxana looked to have Pana stalled on its next drive, but after an illegal procedure penalty stuck the Panthers with a fourth-and-7 situation, Zahradka stepped up and threw a 12-yard strike to Wade McMillen to keep it alive. Five plays later Zahradka ran it in from 13 yards out to make it 27-6 with 4:39 left after the kick from McLeod.
The Shells made one last effort, moving the ball over midfield on their final drive before Foss was picked off and the Panthers ran out the clock.
Keith said Roxana will work on righting the ship before heading to Hillsboro in Week 3.
“Sometimes I think we're waiting for someone to do something,” Keith said. “These are good kids and they want to win football games. We had a great season last year and they want to continue that tradition so they're disappointed right now. I'm not worried though, they are hard workers and we'll go back to the drawing board as coaches and players and try and get things figured out for Hillsboro next week. That's all we can do.”
Foss led the Roxana ground game with nine carries for 87 yards, while he was 7 for 17 for 51 yards and two interceptions through the air. Vandiver carried the ball 12 times for 42 yards and a TD and Foiles and Trey Kelley each had six carries for 25 yards.
The Shells turned the ball over twice, while Pana turned it over once.
SOUTH CENTRAL CONFERENCE
PANA 27, ROXANA 6
Pana 7 13 0 7 — 27
Roxana 0 0 0 6 — 6
P — Adam Miller 65 pass from Rhett Zahradka (Jake McLeod kick), 9:11
P — Zahradka 19 run (McLeod kick), 4:27
P — Jake Franklin 14 pass from Zahradka (kick failed), 1:51
R — Blake Vandiver 3 run (2-point conversion failed), 9:00
P — Zahradka 13 run (McLeod kick), 4:39