Centura scored a touchdown against Hershey on their opening drive. After that, the Panther defense pitched a shutout.

Hershey ran away with a 29-6 victory on Friday at Summers Field.

“We came out and we were determined all week,” Hershey Head Coach Alex Lowther said. “We shot ourselves in the foot on our first possession with a stupid play. But we moved on from it and we did a good job of staying with our assignments. We knew if we played assignment football against their offense, we could shut them down. Our kids did a great job with it. It was a great week of practice. We felt good going in and I’m just proud of the kids.”

The Panthers (1-2) received the ball to start the game. They avoided disaster when the ball was snapped over Cooper Hill as he was punting on fourth down. Hill, who has been Hershey’s quarterback for the last four years, fielded the ball, rolled out to his right and found Ceiden Childears for a first down near midfield.

The Hershey offense couldn’t get further than that and they punted it away.

Centura (0-3) moved the ball into the red zone. On a third down play, the Panthers stopped quarterback Caden Ruhl for a loss, but a personal foul was called on Hershey, giving the Centurions another shot at third down.

Centura was stopped short on the next play but got first down and goal-to-go after converting on fourth down. That led to Ruhl punching it in from a yard out. The Panthers blocked the extra point, and it was 6-0 with just under five minutes left in the first quarter.

Hershey got on the board a minute and a half later when Cooper Hill found Rhodee Hill for a 52-yard touchdown. The Panthers took the lead when Hill threw to Alex Brown on the two-point conversion.

“We did a good job of resetting,” Lowther said. “That just got the ball rolling. We knew we should have gotten a stop before and it was our fault they scored. But they just bounced back. That wouldn’t have happened last year but this year, it’s different.”

It remained 8-6 for the rest of the first half. The Panthers had a touchdown from Hill to Kaden Thompson called back because of an ineligible man downfield. Then, Centura stopped them on fourth down from their 17 by forcing an incomplete pass.

The Centurions had a chance to take the lead right before halftime when Ruhl passed to Hayden Murphy for a big gain to the Hershey 20. But they were turned away when Brodey Hund sacked Ruhl in the final seconds of the half.

Centura received the ball to start the second half but couldn’t move it. The Panthers recieved the ball at midfield after the punt. Hershey couldn’t get a first down and also punted away.

After stopping the Centurions again, Hershey capitalized when Hill found Thompson open on the right side for a 59-yard touchdown. The Panthers again notched a two-point conversion with Hill throwing to Houston Hill to make it 16-6 halfway through the third quarter.

“We saw a mismatch and that was huge for us,” Lowther said. “It just got us going and the defense played lights out from there.”

Hershey put the game away in the fourth quarter. Brown broke loose for a 66-yard touchdown run. The Panthers opted to kick the extra point with Childears to make it a three-possession game with 10 minutes left.

It didn’t matter. After the ensuing kickoff, Cooper Hill intercepted Ruhl and returned it to the Centura five. Three plays later, following a false start penalty against Hershey, Hill ran it in from seven yards out. The extra point was missed but the Panthers had the game in hand.

The Centurions from the Grand Island area got the ball to within the Hershey 10-yard-line but they were turned away once again by the stout Panther D. That’s how the game ended.

“They were still moving the ball but we kept getting stops on fourth down and not letting them get into the end zone,” Lowther said. “Offensively, we did enough good things and we popped a big run too.”

Next, the Panthers will play at Holyoke, Colo. (3-0) on Sept. 15.

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