SAEGERTOWN — Bryan Borkovich was at a loss for words following Maplewood’s Friday night loss at Saegertown.
“Hats off to (Saegertown), but we just came out and laid an egg offensively,” said the Tigers’ head coach.
Bokrovich’s frustrations were justified despite a 200-yard offensive performance from the locals, as five costly turnovers overshadowed anything Maplewood was able to string together. The Panthers, on the other hand, were more than happy to take the pigskin off the Tigers’ hands, turning two of those turnovers into touchdowns en route to a 18-2 Region 4 victory.
Jake Reisinger was the primary catalyst for the Panthers, carrying the ball on 25 occasions for a game-high 111 yards, including a 4-yard score in the fourth quarter. The senior also hauled in a game-best 71 yards through the air on three receptions, escaping into the end zone once on a 6-yard pass from Henry Shaffer, who completed a total of 10 passes for 155 yards.
Both sides got off to rather shaky starts. Saegertown was forced to punt on their opening possession following an offensive holding penalty and a huge sack by Maplewood’s Joey King that pinned the Panthers with a third-and-26 situation that they could not overcome. Then, on the subsequent drive, Maplewood found themselves sending the ball away. However, the ball was muffed down near the red zone and recovered by the Tigers at the Panthers’ 23-yard line.
On the very next play, Kaleb Donor galloped through the defensive line and down to the Saegertown 1. But the tables quickly turned when Donor’s next touch on the following play was poked out and picked up by Saegertown at the 3.
Despite the recovery, the Panthers were on the ropes inside their own 5, and consecutive false start penalties pushed them back as deep as they could go without crossing their own goal line. Maplewood did not flinch on this opportunity, swarming Reisinger as he attempted to find an opening out the end zone, resulting in a rare safety for the Tigers.
With a 2-0 score heading into the second frame, the Tigers were back in business, moving the ball up the field with three straight positive run plays and a big 16-yard screen pass from Dominick Kinney to Donor. But the movement would be short-lived, as the Tigers’ freshman quarterback misplayed the ball on a shotgun snap, giving the ball back to Saegertown on their own 47.
Maplewood’s defense held its ground, opening the ensuing drive with a 7-yard loss on a sack by Dylan Reed. Now facing a third-and-27, Saegertown’s Shaffer connected with Reisinger on a short pass to the left side. The short gain turned into a 60-yard pickup as Reisinger broke into the open field before being chased and tackled at the Maplewood 5. It only took the Panthers an additional play to take the lead on a Jaden Reagle touchdown run.
Third and fourth downs became issues for the Tigers defense as the night progressed, as Saegertown converted on 7-of-13 third-down opportunities, and one significant fourth-down conversion in the third quarter that led to another score.
“I think, at times, the defense played great,” said Borkovich. “But we gave up too many plays on third down, and they were stupid mistakes on defense.”
The closest the Tigers would come to scoring offensively occurred on their first possession of the second half.
The attack was led on the ground as Donor used seven straight carries to gain 42 yards and set his team up nicely inside the Saegertown 10. Instead of handing it back off to Donor to try and punch it in, the Tigers tried to catch the Panthers defense off-guard with a passing play. The hosts were not fooled by the call, intercepting Kinney’s shot at the end zone on the goal line.
From there, the Panthers went back to work, orchestrating a 14-play, 78-yard scoring drive to give them a 12-2 lead.
Following back-to-back fumbles on consecutive plays from both teams, Saegertown forced a three-and-out from Maplewood to get the ball back early in the fourth.
Using a dominating ground brigade, the Panthers marched down the field once again in just over five minutes to cap off a 10-play, 55-yard drive with a second-effort touchdown from Reisinger.
In Maplewood’s final offensive drive, Jason McFadden was reinserted at the quarterback position in place of Kinney, who finished with 64 yards on 7-of-15 passing.
“We were just trying something different,” explained Borkovich. “Maybe we should have gone to (Jason) sooner. (Dominick) just didn’t have it tonight, so there was no point keeping him in, so we made the switch to try and get something going.”
Maplewood will have to lock it down this upcoming week of practices with undefeated Northwestern coming to Guys Mills. The Wildcats needed overtime to pull off a 17-14 win over the Tigers in the season-opener in Albion back on Sept. 11.
“If we don’t get the offense going, it’s not going to matter,” stressed Borkovich when asked about preparing for Northwestern. “We don’t score enough points, and if we can’t get going offensively, then it’s going to be a long night against them.”
The rematch it slated to kickoff Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m.