PAOLA — Things looked grim for the Paola Panthers in the first quarter against the Piper Pirates in the Class 4A regional football playoffs.
Junior quarterback Garrett Williams was injured on a 14-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 7-7 with 4:08 left in the first quarter. Williams injured his shoulder and was not able to return.
The Panthers also lost starting running back Connor Hasz on the first series of the game. Hasz injured his ankle in the regular season finale at Louisburg. He was held out against Ottawa last week, and reinjured his ankle against Piper.
Paola had five junior varsity players step in and lead the team to a 42-14 victory at Panther Stadium on Friday, Nov. 8.
Junior Ryan Sloan went into the game to replace Williams. Brock Pitzer, a junior running back, went in for Hasz.
Williams and Hasz also played safety. Senior Kade Shay and juniors Isaac Meyers and Isaac Brakner went into the game to shore up the secondary on defense.
Sloan, Pitzer, Meyers, Shay and Brakner were all part of a Paola Panther junior varsity football team that posted an undefeated, 7-0 record on the season.
“As coaches, you say, ‘Next man up,’ all the time,” Paola coach Michael Dumpert said. “You are always one play from going into the game. This is why we put such an emphasis on our junior varsity.
“You talk about adversity,” Dumpert said. “Football is all about how you handle adversity. I was very proud of how our kids played and handled the adversity.”
Senior running back Evan Phillips was the featured back. He ran the ball 20 times for 169 yards and a touchdown. Phillips caught three passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns.
Sloan completed four of seven passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
The regional champion Paola Panthers, 10-0, will be back at home Friday, Nov. 15, to play the Chanute Comets, 9-1.
Paola was held on its first three plays from scrimmage and forced to punt the football. It was the first time all season the Panthers did not score a touchdown on their opening drive.
Hasz came off the field during the first series. He would not return.
Piper took over at its own 38-yard line and scored on a 62-yard touchdown run to take a 7-0 lead with 8:23 left in the first quarter.
Williams completed a pass to Pitzer for a 12-yard gain and a first down.
Phillips picked up 11 yards to move the chains.
Fletcher Aude, a junior fullback, got the tough yards on third down and short. He had a 3-yard run and a 2-yard run for a pair of first downs.
Williams had a 16-yard run for a first down and capped the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run, making it 7-7. He injured his shoulder on the play and would not return for the Panthers.
Phillips broke loose on a 40-yard run to take the ball to the Piper 45-yard line. Phillips had a 12-yard run for a first down. He capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Ryan Wokutch added the extra point for a 14-7 lead with 9:07 left in the second quarter.
Sloan threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to Phillips, increasing the lead to 21-7.
The Paola defense got another big stop. Phillips got outside on a running play and danced down the sideline for 35 yards.
Sloan hooked up with Phillips for another touchdown pass, this one striking from 35 yards.
Mason “Bull” Talcott made a huge tackle for a stop late in the half and a bull sound came over the speakers in his honor.
Sloan threw his third touchdown pass of the game, completing a 20-yard strike to Phillips for a score of 35-7 with 2:47 left in the third quarter.
Piper capped a drive in the fourth quarter with a 4-yard touchdown run, closing the margin to 35-14.
Aude had a 12-yard touchdown, making the final score 42-14.
Aude ran the ball 17 times for 95 yards.
Peuser led the Paola defense with nine tackles. Johnson made eight tackles. Mikey Stribling and Jake Karr each had five tackles. Javier Castillo had four tackles. Jackson Earlywine, Meyers and Talcott each had three tackles.