By Jay Young
SHERMAN- The Sherman Wildcats (6-1, 5-1) pulled even with Cattaraugus-Little Valley for the Class DD football championship with a 20-7 victory at home over the Panama Panthers (5-2, 4-2) on Saturday.
Photo by Jay Young
Panama quarterback Bryce Payne gets off a pass with pressure from Sherman's Jon Spacht.
Facing rainy weather and rough field conditions, the Wildcats were forced to rely heavily on the ground game of senior Devin Moorhead and solid offensive line play to overcome the Panthers.
"Our guys up front really stepped up for this game," said coach Bob Krenzer, "We didn't have a great week of practice, but everyone came to play today."
Sherman won the opening coin toss and elected to put their defense on the field first. The Panthers put together a good opening drive that began with a 30-yard rush by Ricky Eddy. Their first series stalled after an incompletion by quarterback Bryce Payne, but Panama elected to attempt a fourth-down conversion. Sherman was able to take over on downs after another failed pass attempt.
The first offensive possession of the game for the Wildcats also stalled after loss of yardage on a recovered fumble, but Sherman was able to get the ball back on the next play. With seven minutes to go in the first quarter, Moorhead jumped on a mishandled punt and put the Wildcats in good field position. However, Sherman was unable to capitalize and turned the ball over on downs.
The turnovers kept on coming for Panama in the first quarter. After playing solid defense and stopping the Wildcats on fourth down there was a missed toss from Payne that was jumped on by Sherman's Korey Ayers. With minutes left to play in the first quarter, Sherman made the Panthers pay for the turnover with a 5-yard rushing touchdown by quarterback Andrew Graham. The failed two-point conversion made the score 6-0 at the end of the first quarter.
During the second quarter more rain began to come down and mud steadily built up on the field.
Krenzer noted, "You're always going to have games like that, you just have to stick to what you know best."
The sloppy conditions continued to cause issues for both teams during the remainder of the game.
Moorhead fumbled on the following Wildcat possession, giving Panama an opportunity to score before the half. After some solid rushing, junior Kyle Saxton punched the ball into the end zone on a third-and-one and Jack Payne's kick made it 7-6.
The second half kickoff was returned by Chris Greiner of Sherman to the 31-yard line. The Wildcats had a successful series on the next seven plays, but once again the rain proved difficult. Moorhead lost control of the ball on a 5-yard run and Panama's Thomas Hoch was able to come away with it.
After an ineffective series that ended in a punt, Panama got the ball back and drove for a first down following a close measurement. During the next play, Graham was hit on a quarterback keeper deep in his own territory and added another turnover for the Panthers.
Sherman capitalized as it was able to go up 12-7 after a rushing touchdown for Moorhead and a missed conversion.
The final quarter began with another punt from the Panthers. The Panama defense continued to play well late into the game, but was hurt by an offsides penalty on fourth-and-short. With a fresh set of downs, the Wildcats were able to move the ball downfield on eight plays and finish the game with a 35-yard run by Graham, and a successful conversion by Greiner for a 20-7 lead.
Offensively for Sherman, Graham finished with 86 yards on 10 carries for two touchdowns and Moorhead had 26 rushes for 130 yards and a score.
On defense, Greiner finished with 12 tackles, Ryan Robson recorded six and Jon Spacht had seven.
For the Panama, Eddy had two carries for 30 yards and Saxton finished with seven carries for 38 yards and a touchdown.
Jacob Short recorded 14 tackles and Brandon Metzer had 10.