By Jim Hunter
The bottom line in the winless battle between Saegertown and Titusville: two different halves.
Struck off-guard by Titusville’s flip-floppin on offense in the first half, the Panthers fell behind 28-0 and the hole was too big to climb out of as the Rockets posted their first win of the season with a 35-16 win on Friday night in Region 3 action at Canon Memorial Field.
Titusville improved to 1-6 in the league and 1-8 overall, while Saegertown dropped to 0-7 and 0-9.
Although still winless, Panthers’ coach Mike Rhoades — and his players — are keeping their heads held high.
“Hey, we’re not going to make any excuses or want people to feel sorry for us, we’re in this together and I am very proud of my players,” he said. “My job is to keep them together ... I can’t lose them.”
The Panthers’ turn-around in the second half is a strong indication that Rhoades still has control of his group.
Throwing different offensive wrinkles at SHS in the first half, Titusville chewed up the Panthers by scoring on four of its five offensive possessions to take a 28-0 halftime lead.
The Rockets found paydirt in a variety of ways: quarterback Brady Corklin tossed 11- and 9-yard touchdown passes to Zachary Carter and Mike Gionti and scored on a 42-yard scamper and Ehrin Lee broke free for a 31-yard TD romp.
How were the Rockets so effective?
“Our game plan coming in was to adjust our secondary accordingly to their offensive sets, but they kept flip-floppin ... causing a lot of confusion on my young group,” said Rhoades.
The Panthers switched to a 4-4 front in the second half and Titusville was stymied. Lee’s 88-yard touchdown run on a broken play was the Rockets’ lone bright spot.
Saegertown also generated some offense ... but turnovers in the red zone hurt the Panthers.
On SHS’s opening possession, the Panthers marched 74 yards on 15 plays, but running back Trey Reagle was drilled hard at the Rockets’ 6 and fumbled.
After recording a safety as Lee was tackled in the end zone, Saegertown was in the red zone again ... but another fumble prevented the Panthers from scoring.
“Obviously, these turnovers really hurt us,” said Rhoades. “We had a chance to make this game real interesting.”
Saegertown cashed in in the fourth quarter ... twice. Running back Mitchell Schultz scored on five - and two-yard runs, but it was a little too late for the Panthers.
Game notes: Powered by his 88-yard touchdown jaunt, Lee rushed for 163 yards on 13 carries. ... Corklin was a double-threat as he completed eight of 12 passes for 105 yards and also rushed for 74 yards on eight hauls. ... Saegertown had a balanced rushing attack: Casey Fetzner (65 yards on 11 carries), Trey Reagle (54 yards on 14 carries), James Taylor (49 yards on nine carries and Schultz (48 yards on nine carries).