Central falls to Philomath 10-7

INDEPENDENCE - A stout defensive effort from the Panthers football team wasn't able to hold off Ben DeSaulnier and the No. 1 Philomath Warriors as they were victorious 10-7 over Central. The Panthers held the Warriors to their lowest offensive output of the season, but the offense couldn't get anything going until a miracle fourth-and-10 play late in the fourth quarter brought the offense back to life. Panthers senior quarterback Ben Finnegan had trouble finding his receivers in the first half, throwing two interceptions, while the Panthers defense held the high-scoring Warriors offense to just seven first-half points. Neither team found the end zone until Philomath running back Austin Brown scored in the second quarter on a 28-yard touchdown run.The Warriors scored more than 40 points in each of their first three games and 28 Sept. 20 against Gladstone, but the Panthers defense didn't break by holding DeSaulnier, a second-team all-state wide receiver last year and currently sixth in receiving yards this year, to only four catches for 29 yards."Our defense is playing incredibly well, it is probably one of the best defenses I've had while coaching here," Central coach Shane Hedrick said.They did bend, however, giving up 174 yards on the ground to Brown, which left the offense few opportunities to make up for the early turnovers. Central ran only 47 plays on offense Friday night. The second half was more of the same, as Philomath had a few chances to score, but the defensive effort by the Panthers kept them in the game until the end.A particularly big play in the third quarter found senior linebacker Tell Cruickshank crushing Philomath quarterback Trey Ecker, causing a fumble. Ecker recovered the fumble that seemingly knocked the Warriors out of any sort of field goal range and setting up a long fourth down.Cruickshank and fellow linebackers Colton Magill and Wes Riddell combined for 27 tackles and three sacks.The strip-sack by Cruickshank led to a gutsy call by Philomath coach Troy Muir, said Hedrick. He sent DeSaulnier out to kick a 45-yard field goal into the wind.It paid off when he drilled the kick, which later became the difference in the game, as it put the Warriors up two scores in the third quarter.With 3:10 left in the fourth the struggling Panther offense finally found a spark on fourth and 10 from its own 9-yard line when Finnegan found wide receiver Colby Jackson over the middle for a 91-yard touchdown, which brought the Panthers within three at 10-7. Photo by Landon Kafka Colby Jackson breaks a tackle against Philomath The defense held one more time when Muir decided to go for it on fourth down near midfield and failed, giving the Panthers one last chance to get the win, or at least get into field goal range with less than a minute left.The offense was unable to make it happen though as Finnegan's last pass to Jackson went just off his finger tips on fourth down, allowing Philomath to escape with a victory.The tough loss led to a long team meeting afterward as Hedrick discussed the future of this season with the seniors and Wes Riddell in the weight room after releasing the underclassmen to the locker room."Coach just explained to us how important it is to come out fired up and play four quarters," Riddell said. "We had an opportunity for a big win here, but we couldn't put points on the board.""We have complete confidence in the defense, but we have to get it going on offense, especially in the red zone, if we want to win these games," Jackson said.The Warriors moved to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the Oregon West as the Panthers fell to 3-2 overall and 0-1 in conference play.The Panthers look to rebound against Cascade at home on Friday.


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