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Pelion Panthers suffer crushing defeat in home opener against Wagener-Salley War Eagles

Pelion, SC (Paul Kirby) – The Pelion Panthers came out of the locker room at the Panther’s Den in high spirits Friday night with bright hopes and confidence for the season and home varsity football opener. Although the sky was dark and overcast and a light rain fell just before kickoff, no one knew that the forecast was foretelling the outcome of the game for the Panthers. In the end, the final score, Wagner-Salley 22, Pelion 0, was almost as disheartening as the look on the Pelion boys’ and fans’ faces at the final horn. Neither came close to the dark mood and disgust that was evident in Pelion’s head-coach and AD’s Dan Holland’s post-game interview.

As Holland stood alone just off the home goal line with his arms folded across his chest, a scowl on his face after the game, he said, “Our opponents did nothing tonight that we didn’t practice and prepare for everyday this week. Their kids were simply tougher than ours and played a much better game! We need 11 or 12 kids that will fight from start to finish and play the game plan we practiced during the week.” Holland went on to say, “I’m embarrassed, they should be embarrassed, and I don’t plan to feel this way again next week or this year!” Holland said that the Panther’s players had better plan to be ready to work at practice Monday and every day this week until all the mistakes were corrected, and they were ready to go on the road next week to face Calhoun County.

The Panthers won the coin toss Friday and chose to defer to the War Eagles for the first half. The first possessions by each team looked as if the game was shaping up to be a ground-and-pound game where muscle and defense would tell the tale. Wagener-Salley was able to move the ball to about the 50-yard line before having to punt and Pelion’s first possession was similarly unproductive. It looked like the physical up the middle game would be the tone of the night, then the War Eagles found their outside run and short pass and the scoring fest in the first half was off to the races, but all on the side of Wagener-Salley.

For the rest of the half, Pelion’s defense seemed powerless against the outside offense of their opponents. Almost every time the visitors got their hands on the ball, they either ran or passed short to the outside and marched down the field to score. The only thing that was against them was the myriad of penalties they were assessed for mistakes they seemed to continually make. Before the night was through, the only thing that kept the score from being even more lopsided in Wagener-Salley’s favor were the several goals called back because of these mistakes. By the end of the first half, the score showed 22-0 in favor of the Eagles, and Pelion sputtered their way through the second half powerless to make up the deficit.

In their defense, the coaching staff of the Panthers were able to make the necessary adjustments on the defensive side of the ball to shut down that outside game of their opponents in the second half. However, Pelion’s offense looked just as bad in the second half as it did the first. Their quarterback Pryce Whitten, who did see some playing time last year as backup QB and on defense, has matured and gained some size. Friday,he simple couldn’t put it in the hands of his receivers often enough in either the short or long pass play to get the Panthers on the board. This kid has a tremendous heart, always has, but will have to match that with accuracy to make Pelion anywhere near successful for the remainder of the season. He simply doesn’t have the size to do much on the quarterback keeper to be effective unless his offensive line can offer more effective blocking for that. In Pryce’s defense, it’s hard to throw or even run when many of the snaps from Pelion’s starting center seemed to put the ball way over Whitten’s head, not in his hands to start the plays. The center is going to have to settle down and put the ball in his hands before he can put it in anyone else’s.

Jeremiah “Jaybo” Green is a multi-talented young man and can run and catch for the Panthers, but he can’t afford to miss the big plays if Pelion is to be successful at all. He also took a pounding Friday and may end up on the injured list before the end of the season if that keeps up. Other key players that show potential for the Panthers include Drew Boozer and Colby Miles at wide receiver, and Gage Goodwin, the Panthers other QB.

As for Wagener-Salley, Head Coach Willie Fox, who was at Pelion High School as an assistant football coach and basketball coach from 2005-2014, has what he has said may be one of the best squads he’s had in a number of years. Quentiz Barnes, Kaleb Shaw, Ryan Argroe are all great athletes who did a great job for the War Eagles. In the last two seasons, they’ve gone 8-2 and they could have another great year this year by the looks of their team Friday night. They’ll face Fox Creek High School in Wagener-Salley next week.

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