LOUISBURG — Three fourth down plays turned the tide in a 21-7 victory for the Paola Panthers in the annual “Rivalry on K-68” game against the Louisburg Wildcats.
Louisburg had a first down and goal and were held on downs by Paola. Panther linebacker Layton Brandt and lineman Isaiah Taylor stopped Louisburg quarterback Declan Battle on fourth and goal at the 1-yard line at the end of the third quarter.
It was a one-score game, 13-7, with the Panthers clinging to a six-point lead.
Brandt gave Paola some breathing room with a 5-yard run on first down. Facing fourth down and 1 at its own 10-yard line, the Panthers went for it and moved the chains on a quarterback sneak by Trey Moala.
Moala handed the ball off to running back Jovanni Blackie who then threw a 30-yard pass to Logan Newkirk for a first down. Paola faced another fourth down and 1 at midfield and got the first down on a 3-yard run by Brandt.
Moala capped off the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run. Paola went for the 2-point conversion. Moala rolled out of the pocket to his right and saw Jonathan Earlywine raise his arm as he ran from left to right in the back of the end zone. Earlywine caught the pass for the conversion reminiscent of “The Catch” Dwight Clark was famous for catching from Joe Montana as San Francisco defeated Dallas to start their dynasty.
Taylor recovered a Louisburg fumble with 5:39 left in regulation, taking the ball back for the Panthers.
Paola turned the ball over. Louisburg was held on downs in the ensuing possession. Paola ran out the clock to seal the victory.
Paola improved to 5-3 with the victory. Louisburg fell to 4-3.
The Paola Panthers are home against Lansing (2-6) in the regional playoffs Friday, Oct. 29. Louisburg travels to Lenexa to play defending state champion St. James Academy (4-4).
The Louisburg Wildcats recognized senior players and managers. Honored during their last regular season home game were Aiden Barker, Drake Burdine, Liam DeVary, Brandon Doles, Bryce Gage, Reid Justesen, Kolby Kattau, Tom Koontz, Luis Rios, Gavin Whisenhunt and managers Sami Leikam, Malee Rutherford and Delaney Wright.
The Paola Panthers opened the scoring on the first play from scrimmage, going 80 yards on a touchdown run by Caden Rhamy in his first game back. Dominic McCoy kicked the extra point.
Moala capped a drive right before the end of the half, scoring on a 2-yard touchdown run. Paola lost the snap on the extra-point attempt, making it 13-0 at the intermission.
Louisburg made it a one-score game, opening the second half with a nine-play, 78-yard drive. Battle threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to wideout Jase Hovey. Layne Ryals made the extra point.
The Paola Panther defense denied the Louisburg Wildcats on fourth down and goal at the 1-yard line and marched the ball 99 yards for the score to seal the victory, making a pair of fourth down conversions along the way.
Blackie ran the ball 27 times for 139 yards. Rhamy had 12 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown. Moala ran the ball 11 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
Rhamy led the Paola defense with 11 tackles. Brandt made six tackles. Dalton Picek, Kale Murdock. Grant Celano and Moala each had four tackles. Brody Stewart and Taylor made three tackles each.
Battle completed 13 of 26 passes for Louisburg for 130 yards and a touchdown. He ran the ball 16 times for 35 yards.
Ashton Moore ran the ball five times for 54 yards. Mason Dobbins caught five passes for 63 yards.
Hovey led the Wildcats with 19 tackles. Nathan Vincent made 11 tackles. Jackson Rooney had nine tackles. Doles made eight tackles.