At 1pm this afternoon the Cokeville Panthers were scheduled to take on the Rich County Rebels on Dayton Field in Cokeville to celebrate homecoming weekend, but for those in attendance or who watched live on the SVI Sports Network on SVI3 or listened on the Wave, it may have felt like the Panthers forgot to actually take the field until the 2nd half had kicked off. The Rebels jumped all over the Panthers in the 1st half, forcing 4 turnovers and making 2 4th down stops and turning those turnovers into 12 1st half points.
The Panthers looked lost, and were making mental mistakes seemingly every drive in the opening half of the contest. The 2nd score especially showcased in a nutshell the Panthers start to the game as Jack Dayton managed to intercept a Hunter Pace pass attempt deep over there middle and looked to run it deep into Rebel territory with the game still at 6-0, it was a chance to give the offense a golden chance to tie the game or take the lead. Instead, as he was being tackled Dayton coughed up the ball and the Rich County offense got back on it, giving them a first down on their own 10 and 1 play later Pace hit Trey Walker on a post route who brought it down in double coverage, shed a tackler, and took it to the house for a 90 yard touchdown reception.
Even our broadcast wasn’t immune to the first half bug that was going around as the internet for Cokeville HS went out for a few moments during the 1st quarter, which unfortunately meant after we missed a pair of drives to reconnect the web-connection we could no longer keep accurate stats so no stats were kept for the remainder of the game, proof that the homecoming atmosphere was causing a ruckus for everyone involved with the Cokeville side.
The 12-0 score would hold as the game entered the extended halftime break, but during this break the Panthers seemed to locate their focus underneath one of the lockers or something because the 2nd half couldn’t have started any better for the Cats. The Rebels found themselves early on in a 3rd and 10 situation and the snap went flying over the head of the wildcat QB Trey Walker who, when he went back to retrieve the ball, made the decision to try to pick it up and make magic happen rather than falling on it which proved to be a mistake when the Panthers forced a fumble and recovered at the Rebels 15 yards line.
4 plays later on a 4th and 14 as it looked like Rich County was once again going to turn the Panthers away with no points, QB Landon Walker found his favorite target on the year Tanner Hatch running a crossing pattern and hit him in stride allowing the Cokeville 2022 Homecoming King to run through the tackle of the lone Rebels defender in his way and score the 19 yard Touchdown to potentially swing the momentum in the favor of the home team, and swing it did. On the Rebels 2nd drive of the half Hunter Pace was intercepted for the 2nd time today by Jack Dayton who used his skills as the states top rusher across all of 2A to return the pick down to the Rich County 29 yard line.
For the 2nd straight time, the Panthers would capitalize on the takeaway by removing their magician’s cloth to reveal they had turned it into another touchdown, this time a Jack Dayton rushing score that knotted the game at 12. The Panthers then made the decision to go for 2 perhaps as a result of the first PAT having been blocked but the decision did not pay off as it was stymied meaning the game stayed tied at 12 a piece.
This wasn’t the end of the defensive takeaway fever though, drive number 3 for the Rebels in the 2nd half ended on what initially appeared to be a screen pass attempted to Trey Walker was dropped but then scooped up by Jack Dayton of the Panthers and run back for a touchdown with the officials ruling the pass to have been a lateral, giving the Panthers their first lead of the game in the 4th quarter and on a scoop and score fumble recovery of all things. The Panthers would go on the play shut down defense for the remainder of the final quarter and the offense would put the nail in the coffin with a 3 yard touchdown pass from Landon Walker to Tanner Hatch for their 2nd scoring connection of the game. This time the 2 point conversion was successful on a Landon Walker speed option scamper to the end zone, pinning the score at 26-12 with 3:10 remaining in the game which proved to be too much for the Rebels to overcome of that point.
It was an impressive comeback for the Panthers after a very poor start that the team turned into a season-defining statement victory which brings their season record up to 5-1 on the season. Jack Dayton also, while no official stats were kept in the game, most surely topped the 49 yards he needed to keep his lead in the 2A rushing title chase. For the 2nd straight week as well we will have to give our player of the game award to Tanner Hatch, who also for the 2nd straight week recorded an interception in the end zone to kill an opposing drive and scored a receiving touchdown in the same game (2 in this particular game).
The Panthers will be in Thermopolis next week and will kick off at 2pm, that game will be covered by SVI on the radio on the Wave and video coverage on SVI3, be sure to tune in to catch the final regular season road game for the Panthers next week before their regular season finale at home against the 3rd ranked Lyman Eagles.