NEW PARIS — Under near perfect weather conditions, the Twin Valley South Panthers traveled to face off against the National Trail Blazers in a Cross County Conference game, Friday, Sept. 9. Both teams went into the game winless on the season, but it was TVS who came away with the 27-12 win.
“It was a great game,” said South coach Clint Bartlett, of his first victory at the helm for the Panthers. “We challenged them to turn the game around, and our fortunes around — and they responded. (Andrew) Augspurger carried the load for us tonight. Ryan Bassler did a great job as well, but the big boys up front, they opened up some nice holes for the backs tonight.
“Our defense has just been getting better every week since the first time we started scrimmages all the way up until now,” Bartlett added. “I think we are going to get better and keep this momentum going.”
The Blazers suffered several costly turnovers later in the game, two fumbles lost to the Panthers, which turned this from a tight contest into defeat.
“They had a lot more than we had,” Trail coach Randy Kerns said. “We are our own worst enemy. We had over 300 yards offense and we could have done anything but we suffered key penalties and turnovers which shot us in the foot again. We also had so many missed tackles in key plays, and that hurt us as well.”
On the opening kickoff, TVS returned the ball to the 27-yard line and ran three plays for only six yards. Facing a 4th-and-4 situation, quarterback Mike Myers kept the ball for a 14-yard run to convert the first down and continue the drive. Five plays and 50 yards later, the Panthers hit paydirt on a five-yard pass from Myers to running back Jared Cottingim.
TVS was up 7-0 after the point after attempt. National Trail ran off six plays for two first downs until suffering a fumble, recovered by the Panther defense. The Blazers held off the Panther drive with an interception by Lucas Boggs. The score remained 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter opened up with a stalled Blazer drive.
Twin Valley took their next possession deep into Blazer territory but was held short and had to settle for a field goal attempt that missed the uprights from 40 yards out.
The turn of events invigorated the Blazer offense, and they marched down the field on runs of 20, 11, and 15 yards by Ben Sullivan, Jacob Heck, and Lucas Boggs respectively. At the 30-yard line, the drive stalled, with NT suffering a turnover on downs from a pass broken up by South’s Ryan Johnson.
On the last play of the half, Myers was sacked by Sullivan to lock in a 7-0 TVS lead.
The third quarter was equally energetic, with Trail starting its drive on the 33-yard line. But after gaining two first downs, the Blazers were forced to punt, which ended in a touchback. On the first play of the drive, running back Andrew Augspurger muscled his way up the middle, fought off several tacklers and outran the Blazer defenders 80 yards for a touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, Trail took the ball down to the 30-yard line to begin their drive. This time, the Blazers began a power running attack using quarterback Sullivan as the wedge behind the center. He and fullback Tyler Glander ran numerous times for yards up the middle of the formation, pushing the Panthers back yard after yard until in the end, a sweep to the short left side gave NT their first touchdown of the game — and first of the season.
At the buzzer, the score was 14-6 due to a missed PAT.
Unfortunately for National Trail, the fourth quarter was the deal-breaker. After both teams each had a short drive stalled, it was Johnson who broke through several tackles and raced in 25 yards for a Panther touchdown. Their PAT kick missed, moving the score up 20-6 with 7:59 on the clock.
National Trail tried to rally back, but their drive stalled due to a turnover on downs after three missed passes. South put the game out of reach at 6:39 when Augpurger ran up the middle for a 39-yard touchdown, putting the score at 27-6.
Toward the end of the game, the Blazers were able to add a second touchdown on the night with a 3-yard plunge into the endzone from Glander. However, there was not enough time left to close the game, ending 27-12.
“We didn’t quit tonight,” said Kerns. “When we scored our first touchdown, it gave us some long-needed confidence and energy to play for a win. But again, a penalty here, a turnover there, and missed tackles cost us the momentum and we ended up getting down on ourselves again. We just need to play better, execute better and gain some confidence in ourselves.”
Twin Valley was led in passing by Myers, who finished with 5-of-7 passes for 102 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Augspurger was the star in the backfield, with 17 carries for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Bassler added 36 yards on nine carries, and Sammy Shockey ran eight times for 17 yards. Chandler Napier had three catches for 86 yards. Bassler and Cottingim each had two catches, while Troy Bowers and Shockey each had one catch.
Trail was led by running back Heck, who carried the ball 14 times for 108 yards and one touchdown. Glander ran for 40 yards and a TD. Sullivan ran for 65 yards. Glander had nine tackles, three for loss. Boggs registered eight tackles. Defensive tackle Levi Norton had seven tackles and two tackles for loss, while Mike Behringer had seven stops. Sullivan added five tackles and a sack.
TVS will play next Friday, Sept. 16, against CCC foe Ansonia, while National Trail will face off against Jefferson. TVS is now 1-2 on the season, and 1-0 in the conference, while National Trail falls to 0-3 overall, and 0-2 in the conference.
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @osanders_RH