Jersey Panthers lose to Marion Wildcats at home

JERSEYVILLE — The grass was wet Friday night at Snyders Sports Complex, but that didn’t stop the Marion Wildcats from running on it.

After an electric first quarter that featured five touchdowns, the Wildcats beat the Jersey Panthers 48-22 in a non-conference game. The Wildcats have now beaten the Panthers in four consecutive matchups since 2018.

Jersey falls to 1-1, while Marion moves to 2-0.

The lopsided scoreline was not what the crowd expected after the first 30 seconds of the game, which included two touchdowns on consecutive plays.

The first touchdown was by Marion on the first play of the game. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign quarterback and rookie Evan Noelle threw a swing pass to running back Tommy Wiseman. Wiseman missed a defender and flew on the sidelines for a 75-yard touchdown.

Jersey responded immediately.

In front of a raucous crowd for first responders night, running back Chase Withrow found a lane and ran along the sideline for an 80-yard return touchdown.

After both offenses succeeded on two-point conversions, it was tied 8-8 after just 30 seconds.

Withrow has become accustomed to finding that endzone this season. He rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns last week against Granite City to lead Jersey to a 35-0 win.

The Panthers took possession after a turnover on tries from Marion in midfield, but a reverse pass interception gave the ball to the Wildcats.

Noelle wasted no time, rushing for a 12-yard touchdown to give Marion a 14-8 lead with 3:04 left in the first quarter.

“(Noelle’s) ability to get by has played big for the last two weeks,” Marion’s coach Kerry Martin said.

The Wildcats are one week away from a 21-0 season-opening win over Herrin. Noelle rushed for 76 yards and threw for 95 yards in that game.

Against the Panthers, Noelle rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown, as well as 187 yards and a touchdown.

“It’s a very dynamic offense and one hell of a football team,” Jersey coach Caleb Williams said. “It’s hard to prepare for the formations they have.”

Noelle’s only mistake of the night came on the next possession, when he threw a six pick to senior linebacker Logan Mesiner. The Panthers took a 15-14 lead with less than 30 seconds left in the first quarter.

But 30 seconds was enough for Marion.

On the first play of practice, Wildcats running back Patrick Walker took over and followed his guard across the hole, opening for a 65-yard touchdown run. Walker was almost undamaged on the run.

Although Noelle was the main target for opposing defenses, Walker took center stage. Against Jersey, Walker rushed 13 times for 199 yards and two touchdowns.

The two-point conversion gave Marion a 22-15 lead and capped a 37-point first quarter that included five total touchdowns.

“I love seeing our kids deal with adversity like that,” Martin said of the six-pick and special teams touchdown. “They handled the situation well. Our children had to fight. It was good teamwork tonight. »

Marion continued to run the ball hard in the second quarter, getting rushing touchdowns from Jordyn Beverly and Brody Larson to enter the half with a 38-15 lead.

The Wildcats running offense was unique. Most of the team’s offensive sets did not feature separate wide receivers, but instead saw all 11 players in a tight formation.

Marion had 295 rushing yards and 465 offensive yards for just 151 total offensive yards per Jersey.

“At the end of the day, they just managed to line up and crush us,” Williams said. “We did what we thought we could do best, and it just didn’t work out for us tonight.”

Jersey threw twice and had a turnover on downs on all three possessions in the second quarter.

“The defense continues to play very well,” Martin said. “I’m proud of how physical they have been.”

After Jersey forced a turnover on the downs with Marion in the red zone to start the third quarter, the Panthers offense came to life. Junior quarterback Easton Heafner had three different assists for Ethan Klunk and Tanner Brunaugh.

With the Panthers in midfield, Wildcats linebacker Cooper Thompson intercepted Heafner and sent him back into the Panthers red zone.

Marion would score a few plays later on a seven-yard run from Walker to make it 46-15 after the two-point conversion.

“We have to recover from our mistakes and prepare for next week,” Williams said. “This game is behind us now and we have to prepare to move forward.”

Jersey recovered a fumble on the one-yard line, but it resulted in a safety two plays later to make it 48-15.

Jersey saw signs of life in the final minute of the game, as Withrow rushed for his fifth rushing touchdown of the season to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 48-22.

Withrow was limited to 35 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Heafner had 75 yards and two interceptions.

Brunaugh added 28 rushing yards for the Panthers.

Jersey will look to bounce back at Lincoln at 7pm on Friday, before hosting Highland on September 16 for Homecoming.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” Williams said. “This game will and should hurt, but we will bounce back.”

Comments are closed.