Alba-Golden’s fast start not enough

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Perhaps the most telling statistic from Alba-Golden’s opening district loss to Harmony was the line-up. The visiting Eagles dressed out 37 players, the Panthers 26. Despite an amazingly productive start to the game (the Panthers led 20-14 after the first quarter), Harmony wore Alba-Golden down after the initial surge, and went on to win 56-36. 

But it was a joyous start to the football game.  The Panthers recovered the pooch kick to start the game. A fourth down completion from quarterback Blake Weissert to Tim Mitchell gained a first down deep in Eagle territory.  After a mere three minutes of play, the Panthers opened the scoring on an Austin Hartley two-yard carry.  

Good fortune continued. On Harmony’s first offensive play of the night, the gang-tackling Panther defense created a fumble, and the home side took over at the Harmony 40-yard line. Four plays later Hartley scored on a 28-yard run through the middle of the Eagle defense. With 7:06 left to play in the opening quarter, Alba-Golden led 12-0. 

The teams then traded scores. The Eagles started to throw the ball in order to loosen up the Panther defense. They went 60 yards in nine plays to make the score 12-8. 

Starting from mid-field after the kick off, Alba-Golden answered with a strong run by Boedy Baker for 16 yards.  Jon Chadwick went around the right end and raced in for a 34-yard score. 

The next series turned the game entirely in favor of the visitors.

With the Panther defense seemingly stuffing the Eagles at mid-field, the Harmony quarterback scrambled around right end, and as he was propelled out of bounds, threw a long arcing ball which was caught deep down the right side for a score. The two-point conversion was stuffed by Mitchell, but that touchdown play fundamentally altered the character of the game. 

In the second quarter, the Harmony defense took over. Alba-Golden punted twice and was stopped on a fake punt. Meanwhile, the Eagles revved up their passing attack, scoring on three deep throws to close the first half up 36-20. 

As the teams emerged from the fieldhouse to start the second half, a key leader was missing from the Panthers starters. Boedy Baker, the stand-out leader of the Alba-Golden Panthers, was in street clothes after having injured his left knee in the closing minute of the first half. 

Despite the loss of Baker, Alba-Golden had a plan: score on the opening possession, stop the Eagles, and score again to even the game.  From that point it would be anyone’s contest. 

Alba-Golden set out to do just that. Adding Dalton Arnold to the backfield rotation, the Panthers marched down the field, and scored on a beautifully-executed 48-yard catch and run from Blake Weissert to his cousin Hayden Weissert. 

Step two called for a stop of the Eagles on their opening possession. On a fourth-and-5 from the Panthers 40, Harmony fumbled the snap. It appeared as though the Panthers would take over on downs, but the Eagles quarterback managed to regain control and scampered to the Panther 28-yard line. It was a key play in the game.    

Harmony scored to make it 42-26, and create an insurmountable margin. 

Alba-Golden never lost the will to win. The defense forced a fumble at the goal line to stem one Eagle attack, and halted the next Eagle possession with a huge sack by Mitchell. 

As the third quarter drew to a close, the Panthers had little fuel left in the tank, while the visitors were bringing fresh legs onto the gridiron. Harmony scored twice in the final stanza with a 73-yard post play and an 11-play 76-yard march. 

The outcome was decided early in the third quarter when Harmony was able to advance the fumbled snap for a first down. There would be no Panther comeback.

Despite the final score line, Coach Drew Webster’s team was ready to play. They came out focused and well-prepared. Even after having lost Baker, they stepped up to the challenge. 

They will need all the composure they can muster on Friday when they travel to Winona to face the Wildcats, who are smarting from an opening district loss to Frankston.   

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