Hershey coach Greg Welch has a philosophy he instills in his players. That philosophy is, “Never quit.”
That attitude paid off Friday at Gibbon when the Panthers overcame a 10-0 halftime deficit and came back to beat the Buffaloes 28-10.
It was Gibbon’s homecoming. The Buffaloes (0-2) took the opening kickoff and were unstoppable, marching down the field and finished with a 35-yard touchdown pass and kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Missed assignments and poor tackling by the Panthers (1-1) made the drive too easy and it looked like they were in for a long night if they didn’t make some defensive adjustments early on.
However, Hershey’s offense moved the ball just as easily and got to the Gibbon 27-yard line before turning the ball over on downs.
Gibbon took over and moved to midfield before the Panther defense stiffened and forced a punt.
The Panthers failed to convert on two fourth down attempts in the second quarter but their defense had settled in and held Gibbon in check.
But with under three minutes left before half, Gibbon kicked at 27-yard field go to go up 10-0.
Hershey moved the ball into the red zone but fumbled the ball at the two-yard line. The Buffs took over and ran out the clock.
The teams traded punts in the third quarter with neither team gaining any offensive momentum.
However, on the Panthers’ second possession the offensive adjustments they made at half time began to pay off. Junior running back Austin Holscher found holes in the defense and helped drive his team to the eight-yard line but once again Gibbon stiffened and the Panthers turned the ball over on downs.
The Buffaloes started to move the ball and it looked like they were on their way to the first score of the second half. Quarterback Matthew Weismann launched a long pass that was hauled in by his wide receiver but a hard hit by a Panther safety caused a fumble.
The Panthers took advantage of the turnover when quarterback Bryce Butterfield found Sage Young and hooked up for a 42-yard pass play to move the ball down to the Buffalo 27-yard line.
Holscher ran for 12 yards to get into the red zone and Nate Andreasen capped off the drive with a touchdown run to put the Panthers on the board and right back in the game.
Their joy was short-lived. Gibbon got the ball at the 35 and a first down a handoff up the middle resulted in a 65-yard touchdown scamper to put the Buffs back on top 16-8. The PAT was wide left.
Hershey didn’t give up. The fourth quarter became the Holscher show as he reeled off long runs on every carry amassing an unofficial 205 yard on the ground.
He scored his first touchdown of the night and a two-point conversion tied the game at 16 with 9:16 left in the game.
It became the Panthers’ game when Gibbon fumbled the ball on their own 42. Andreasen found the end zone to give the Panthers their first lead. The two-point conversion was no good but the Panthers were up by six. With 4:54 to go.
The Buffs moved down the field but the Panther defense was up to the task. They got the ball back when Gibbon failed to convert on fourth down with just under three minutes on the game clock.
Holscher put the game away when he took a handoff and turned and twisted his way through the defense for a 41-yard touchdown run.
A last gasp attempt to cut into the lead was thwarted when Andreasen intercepted a pass and the Panthers ran out the clock.
“This was a big win for us,” Welch said. “It was a team effort; the no quit attitude works. We didn’t want to go 0-2 and made some changes that got our offense going. I said it before, we are improving and are going to have a winning season.”
Things don’t get any easier for the Panthers as they return home Sept. 13 to face Doniphan-Trumbull. (2-0). The Cardinals dominated Wood River 58-0 in their opener and manhandled Centura 72-24 Friday.
“They are a good team and ranked. It will be a tough game but we are getting better each game,” Welch said.