HERSHEY — The Panthers defense was stout for the majority of Friday’s prep football matchup with Gibbon.
But three explosive plays — all of which resulted in touchdowns of at least 40 yards, proved to be the difference as the undefeated Buffaloes downed Hershey 20-6.
Two of the plays came in the second half. The first when Carlos Tamayo scored on a 57-yard reception from Braxton Smith to snap a 6-6 tie with 3 minutes, 34 seconds left in the third quarter.
Then Gibbon senior Sean Hampton broke a run for a 59-yard score down the left sideline to give the Buffaloes a 14-point lead with 4:18 left in regulation.
Hampton, who finished with 198 yards on 28 carries, had been held to 45 yards on his first 11 carries of the second half to that point.
“Our defense was under control the whole time,” said Hershey senior running back/linebacker Nate Andresen, who accounted for the Panthers lone score on a kickoff return in the first half. “They just got us on the run and couple pop passes that caught us off guard but other than that, we played really well.”
The Hershey defense added an interception and a fumble recovery, but the Panthers (0-3) struggled offensively throughout the night, finishing with under 200 yards. The Panthers had 72 yards in the second half and punted on five of their drives. Gibbon’s defense also had three of its four interceptions in the second half, two of which came on consecutive Hershey possessions in the fourth quarter.
Hershey was held to 72 yards rushing for the game, including five over the final two quarters.
Austin Hoelscher led the Panthers ground game with 28 yards on nine attempts.
Andresen and Sage Young both had three catch for the Panthers, and quarterback Cooper Hill had the longest reception of the night — a 47-yard gain off a Andresen throw.
“We couldn’t get a run game going,” Hershey coach Greg Welch said. “We are struggling a little bit up front (on the offensive line). We don’t have a senior or a returning starter up front and that’s hurting us.”
Both teams battled through a scoreless opening quarter but each team scored on an explosive play just 15 seconds apart in the second.
Matthew Weismann connected with Jace Bombeck on a 41-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline with 10:32 left in the half.
Andresen then took the ensuing kickoff back 75 yards to tie the score. He initially bobbled the ball but broke through the middle and then outraced the Gibbon coverage team down the left sideline to the end zone.
“It bounced off my knee and I was thinking ‘Oh, crud,’” Andresen said ‘and I just ran like my hair was on fire and trusted my team to take me all the way.”
Both teams had opportunities late in the first half.
Hershey had an 11-play drive to the Gibbon 11 but were thrown for a three-yard loss on a fourth-and-6 play with 5:22 left in the second quarter.
Gibbon then drove to the Hershey 14 on nine plays, keyed by runs of 24- and 25-yards by quarterback Matthew Weismann. The drive stalled and Abel Avila was wide right on a 27-yard field goal attempt.
“It is just the little things right now,” Welch said his team which has lost all three of its games by 14 points. “We’re so close to winning games. I thought the kids played hard tonight.”