By Jason Marek
While the Panther offense set the tone in their district opening win against Ingram, Blanco’s defense turned heads this past week at Marion as the Panthers almost pulled off an improbable upset on the Bulldogs home field.
The Panther defense was actually responsible for the game’s first points as DE Matt Pepper intercepted a Marion screen pass and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown. Sr. TJ Raby continued his streak of PATs, making the score 7 to 0. Marion answered on their next drive, covering 60 yards in 14 plays, taking almost 7 minutes off the clock as HB Doug Giles ended the drive with a 4-yard run. However, Sr. Steven Lieck blocked the Bulldogs’ extra point attempt, keeping the Blanco lead 7 to 6 at the end of the first half, following an uneventful second quarter.
The second half of play opened with Blanco taking advantage of a Marion turnover to score on a short field with QB Tanner Rogers connecting with Colton Childress for a 10-yard TD pass. Raby added the extra point and Blanco increased their lead to 14 to 6 at the end of the third quarter.
As the final quarter began, the Bulldogs completed another 14-play drive, covering 69 yards to cut into the Panther lead on an 8-yard run by Jourden Stanley. Marion’s two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, leaving the score at 14 to 12. While both teams traded field position throughout the fourth quarter, Blanco looked to win the battle when Rogers buried the Bulldogs on their own 1-yard line with a 43-yard punt. However, Marion drove 99 yards in 11 plays to score on a 26-yard pass play from Derek Pierce to Stanley. Marion finally converted a PAT to give them their first lead of the game at 19 to 14 with just 1:45 left to play. On the ensuing kick-off, Childress gave the Panthers excellent field position after a 32-yard return. Following a Panther penalty to begin the drive, Rogers found Quinn Dillard down the sideline for a 31-yard gain into Bulldog territory. However, just when the Panther offense began to move, a fumble on the next play at the Marion 18-yard line allowed the Bulldogs to run out the clock and improve to 6 and 1 overall and 2 and 0 in district play.
Offensively, the Panthers were stymied by one of the area’s top defenses as Blanco could only manage five first downs and just 107 yards in offense. However, the Panther defense forced four turnovers against a very good offense. Interceptions by Pepper and Childress, along with two Mike Garza fumble recoveries, kept the Panthers in the game and in the lead until the very end.
At 3 and 4 overall and 1 and 1 in district play, Blanco will return home to host their long-time rival, the Comfort Bobcats. Comfort enters the game at 3 and 4 overall and 0 and 2 following district losses to Marion and Luling. This will be a must-win for both teams if either has any hopes of advancing to the play-offs. Kick-off at Panther Stadium is set for 7:30pm.