A few mistakes by Hershey gave Hastings St. Cecilia all the openings they needed to grab a 28-13 win Friday night at Summers Field.
The Bluehawks took the opening kickoff but went three and out and were forced to kick. But Hershey mishandled the punt and Hastings got the ball right back at the Hershey 41.
The St. Cecilia offense wasted little time and moved the ball down to the two-yard line. Quarterback Gus Driscoll called his own number and scored. Hershey blocked the PAT and the Bluehawks led 6-0 with 8:47 left in the quarter.
Hershey started their first possession on the 28 and were unable to move the ball. A 55-yard punt appeared to put the Bluehawks inside their own 10, but a penalty for illegal procedure brought it back.
The Panthers punted again but the punt was called back on an identical procedure penalty. The two penalties turned the field around and St. Cecilia started their next drive in Panther territory.
Mixing it up with runs and short passes, the Bluehawks drove the ball inside the 10. The Panther defense stiffened but on fourth and goal from the two, Tate Schmidt squeaked into the end zone. The PAT was good and the lead was 13-0 with 1:47 left in the period.
The Panthers could have come unhinged but running back Nate Andresen gave the team a lift by returning the next kickoff 74 yards to start their drive inside the Blue hawk red zone.
Two plays later, Andresen carried the ball 10 yards to the two and, after a quarterback sneak failed to break the plane, he finished the drive himself, sliding across the goal. The PAT cut the lead to 13-7 with just over a minute left in the quarter.
Hershey stopped St. Cecilia’s next drive early in the second period. The momentum was with the Panthers as they marched to the 20 before a fumble gave the ball back to St. Cecilia.
The teams exchanged punts and St. Cecilia ended up backing the Panthers against their own goal line, forcing another punt.
A short punt gave the Bluehawks the ball at the 18. They took advantage of the short field and capped the drive with a two-yard run by Driscoll. A two-point conversion increased the lead to 21-7 at half time.
The game became a defensive battle in the scoreless third quarter.
And both teams struggled to get traction in the fourth. St. Cecilia threatened several times but the Panther defense stopped them deep in their territory on fourth down.
With time running out, the Panthers went to the air and disaster struck. A pass from Panther quarterback Bryce Butterfield bounced through the receiver’s hands and was picked off and returned for a touchdown. With the extra point, the lead stretched to 28-7 with 2:51 left on the game clock.
The Panthers continued to fight. Andresen took the next kickoff and ran it back 55 yards to set the Panthers up inside the 20.
Keegan Oettinger ran the ball to the 12 and AJ Schultz drove the ball to the two. With 26 seconds left, Andresen capped off the drive with his second touchdown of the game. The extra point was wide.
An onside kick was unsuccessful and the Bluehawks ran out the clock.
Despite the loss, Hershey Head Coach Greg Welch was proud of his team’s effort. “They never quit. We kind of beat ourselves with our mistakes. I am never happy with a loss but we learned a lot. St. Cecilia is tough inside and they held the ball forever,” he said. “We only had a few snaps in the first quarter.”
The Bluehawks ended up with 188 yards of offense, 29 in the air and 159 on the ground. Driscoll completed 3-13 passes.
Micah Heil carried the ball 19 times for 66 yards. Driscoll ran 11 times for 57 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Schmidt rushed 15 times and gained 36 yards with a touchdown.
The Panthers ended up with 101 yards, 63 via pass and 38 on the ground. Butterfield was 8-15 passing.
AJ Schultz caught five of the passes for 44 yards and Sage Young grabbed three for 19.
Andresen led the ground attack with 20 carries for 35 yards.
Next, the Panthers travel to Gibbon (0-1) on Sept. 6.
“We will fix some things and be ready. I know we are going to be a good team,” he said.
St. Cecilia: 13 -8 -0 -7 –28
Hershey: 7 -0 -0 -6 –13