The Coconino Panthers knew Week 1 opponent Marcos de Niza was going to be a tough one, so how does overtime at Cromer Stadium sound?
The Panthers weathered disastrous turnovers en route to a 29-28 OT win over the Padres Friday night, opening the delayed 2020 football season with a clutch win.
"Honestly, my coaching staff and I have said all week: this is gonna be just a dog fight," Panthers head coach Mike Lapsley said. "As long as our kids don't back down, we were going to be super proud of them -- and they didn't. We were lucky enough to pull it out tonight."
First-year starting quarterback Ryan Seery made massive plays, running back Zach Bennett did his thing and the defense came up big when it was needed as the Panthers extended their win streak in season openers to five straight.
Bennett punched in the go-ahead score from a few yards out in overtime, and on the next Marcos de Niza possession, the Panthers defense stopped the Padres' 2-point conversion attempt.
Seery finished 5-of-8 passing for 133 yards and two touchdowns, Bennett went for 119 yards on 21 carries and Manuel Cardoza caught one pass for 76 yards and a score.
The Panthers also got production from special teams as David Adame returned a kickoff to the house after a Padres score in the second quarter.
The win was a thriller for Seery, who was making his first career start at quarterback at the varsity level. While Bennett was successful, the Panthers ground attack wasn't as disciplined as it has been, due to a few fumbles, including one inside the Padres 5-yard line in the first quarter by Cardoza.
Seery figured he needed to prove he can make plays with his arm, but also gave a ton of credit to his blockers.
"I'm feeling pretty good, we had some missed opportunities but my O-line, I really owe it all to them, man," Seery said. "Zach Bennett, he did a lot of blocking for me today, and I just owe it all to those guys -- they are incredible. We couldn't really get it done with the run, so we had to go to the pass and we got it done with our receivers."
As for his head coach, he couldn't help but prop up his starting QB after the win.
"Everyone will admit he is the hardest-working kid on this team," Lapsley said. "I can't say enough good things about him. He's a leader, he takes charge and he had some opportunities tonight that he took advantage of and I am so, so proud of him."
All week the Panthers have rallied in support of teammate Jonathan Jaramillo, who has been in the hospital due to an intense accident.
Bennett wrote on his pads "For Johnny," and Lapsley -- who has coached Jaramillo dating back to youth football -- has been working through it himself all week.
"It's so special (to get the win)," Lapsley said. "He is such a special kid and I know that our time rallied around that this week. They pretty much did it for Jon and I know that he felt that W from the hospital. I hope he did. I hope he heard the crowd roaring and the full hot order."
There is a GoFundMe set up to help Jaramillo's family with the upcoming medical costs related to his injuries.
The Panthers (1-0) open Grand Canyon Region play in Kingman at Lee Williams next Friday at 7 p.m.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!