Panthers outlast Bulldogs, 42-20.

By William Plaster -

NAUGATUCK – The Tug Valley Panthers improved their record to 2-1 after defeating the Van Bulldogs 42-20 on Friday night. The game was sponsored by Tug Valley ARH.

The Panthers outlasted the Bulldogs (2-1) and controlled the game throughout the second half. Heading into halftime the score was 28-20 with the Panthers ahead. The Panthers scored once in the third quarter to jump ahead 34-20 and then Johnathan Blankenship took away all hope that the Bulldogs had with a strip early in the fourth quarter that the Tug Valley would turn into points.

The game started off evenly matched with both teams giving it all they had. The Bulldogs struck first after they won the toss and received the ball. Van worked the ball to the 1-yard line in five plays, but a penalty backed them up to the 6-yard line. The Panthers forced the Bulldogs into a 3-10 situation but Van scored on a slant route through the middle to give them the first score. They attempted an extra point kick but it was wide right and the score stood at 6-0 with the Bulldogs ahead.

When Van kicked off to Tug, Dawson Elia fielded the kick and took the ball 80-yards to the house. The Panthers also missed the extra point kick and the score was tied at 6-6 with 7:54 left to play in the first quarter.

The Panthers returned to kick off to Van and the unexpected happened when Van’s Brady Grant picked up the ball and left the Panthers falling behind as he rushed 70-yards into the end zone. The Bulldogs attempted a pass on the two-point conversion but Noah Lucas intercepted the ball for the Panthers. The score stood at 12-6 with Van ahead.

The Panthers were not going down easy as they received the ball and worked down the field. The drive came to fruition as Elia scampered in from 17-yards out. The two point conversion was no good and the Panthers tied the score up at 12 points.

Tug Valley had two close calls during the first quarter with both Dustin Jarvis and Andrew Dingess hitting the ground with injuries. Dingess would return to the game but Jarvis did not.

To start the second quarter, the Bulldogs worked themselves into a second and 23 situation and was forced to air the ball out. Tug Valley’s Levi Davis was able to get under the ball and snag the interception for the Panthers and return the ball to the TVHS 40-yard line. On the Panthers next drive Elia would fumble the ball which ended up in the hands of the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs kept the ball through most of the second quarter until a turn over on downs gave the ball back to Tug Valley. The Panthers would score on the next drive when Lucas would roll into the end zone from 6-yards out. Chandler Pack added the two point conversion with a run up the gut to make the score 20-12 in favor of Tug Valley.

With 1:57 left to play before halftime Van tied the score at 20 when Alex Gibson crossed the goal line. The two point conversion was good.

However, the Panthers would add one more score before halftime when Lucas broke free to crash into the end zone from 35-yards out. Pack would add another two point conversion to make the score at the half 28-20.

The Bulldogs would not score again although they came close multiple times in the second half.

The Panthers received the ball in the second half and worked the ball nicely down to the 10-yard line. Blankenship would lay the ball down on the 15-yard line after a 50- yard drive and the Bulldogs would recover. After some back and forth Blankenship would find redemption as he crossed the goal line from 10-yards out. The two-point conversion was no good and the score stood at 34-20.

This is when Blankenship was able to strip the ball from the arms of a Bulldog which the Panthers would turn into points in the fourth quarter. Elia was able to break off a huge 70—yard run to set the Panthers up into scoring position. The Panthers worked into a 4-2 situation before Lucas saved the day and put the Panthers on the goal line with a fresh set of downs.

With 5:51 left to play in the game Elia would score the final TD of the game from 1-yard out, the two-point conversion was good and the Panthers would hold on to win 42-20.

The Panthers totaled 402-yards rushing on 42 carries on the night. They attempted four passes but all four was incomplete. Elia led the way with 19 rushes for 196-yards and 3 rushing TDs. Lucas came in second with 139-yards on nine rushes with 2 rushing TDs.

The Bulldogs finished the night with 347-yards of total offense with 257-yards rushing on 47 carries and 90-yards passing on seven completions.

Lucas led the Panthers on defense with 10 tackles, Elia and Blankenship both had seven tackles apiece and Pack finished with six. Davis had four tackles and one interception that was returned 47-yards.

The Panthers will move on to host Sheldon Clark this week.

Scores by Quarters:

Van: 12 8 0 0 – 20

Tug: 12 14 6 8 – 42

By William Plaster

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