Justine Gaskamp, Sports Information Director
GOODWELL – Defense definitely became a key component in Thursday night’s season-opener for Panhandle State football, as the Aggies earned a shutout victory, 10-0, over the McMurry War Hawks.
The Darkside Defense of Panhandle State held the Hawks to a mere 54 yards rushing and under 200 yards passing. Five sacks by the Aggie D had McMurry’s quarterback Kevin Hurley in scramble-mode throughout the night.
Head Coach Russell Gaskamp said he was “really happy” with two of the three phases in the game stating, “Obviously any time you shutout an opponent your defense played pretty well. I was really proud that they got two fourth-down stops, including one on the goal line; and the blocked field goal was huge at the time it happened in the game.” Gaskamp was also pleased with the special teams’ performance adding, “I thought the guys gave great effort on special teams and that we dominated them in that area.”
Leading the linebackers was senior Dominick Bell who came away with 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss on McMurry. Bell totaled seven solo tackles and three assists and forced one fumble in the game. Sophomore Nathan Leithead also shined with eight tackles, one forced fumble and one pass breakup in his season debut. Seniors David Smith and Marcus McCants were big contributors defensively; Smith with 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble, and McCants with a 51-yard interception return.
Offensively, the Aggies relied on their run game, totaling 267 of their 293 offensive yards on the ground. Panhandle utilized three quarterbacks in the game, but failed to find rhythm, due largely to an excess of pre-snap penalties. Coach Gas does not show concern however, offering, “It’s normal for teams to struggle a little offensively in the first game. Historically, we have always bounced back well and improved between game one and game two.”
The Aggies’ first points came by way of a 28-yard field goal off the foot of Sterling Claphan in the first quarter. Claphan added the extra point after a 12-yard touchdown by running back Cedric Agyeman just before halftime. Agyeman led the game offensively with 190 rushing yards on 32 attempts. Quarterbacks DJ Scott and John Polston combined for 37 yards on the ground as the teams’ next leading rushers.
As the coach of the offensive line, Gaskamp thought his front five played really well. “I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage on the offensive side.” The strong o-line helped create space for Agyeman, who carried the brunt of the workload for the depleted running back position group. Gaskamp was extremely proud of Cedric’s take-charge performance.
Scott started behind center in Thursday’s performance and finished four of nine for 21 yards passing; the sophomore suffered one sack and gave up and interception at the end of the first half. The War Hawks had the number of junior QB Brandon Ramon, taking two interceptions and one sack on his three pass attempts. Of the four Aggie receivers that saw action, freshman Seth Barbarino led with two catches for 11 yards; Darrance James, Nick West and Miquel Hudson each caught one ball on the night.
The Aggies owned the majority of possession time with 32.33 minutes and both teams went 6 of 15 in third-down conversions; neither team converted on fourth down. Panhandle State lost 111 yards to 13 penalties, while McMurry had seven for 58 yards.
Not only was the action on the field exciting, but the stands were packed with over 1,500 fans who kept the stadium rocking throughout the game. Gaskamp and his team appreciate the enormous support shown and hope to see that same energy in the stands for the remaining four home games.
This week Panhandle State Football travels to Stephenville, Texas to take on a familiar foe from the Lone Star Conference, Tarleton State. The game is set for Saturday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m.