Author’s Note: The following article refers to football, because the ball is a foot long, and this is America.
Last season, the Panther football team went to Potter Valley and won a 68-64 offensive slugfest against the Bearcats in one of the most exciting and dramatic games in school history. This past Friday the two teams met again in Potter Valley and the outcome was nothing short of a worthy sequel to last season’s melée. Coming out flat in their first road game of the season, Potter Valley jumped all over the Panthers establishing an early three touchdown lead, 28-6. Potter Valley’s Quarterback Dustin Woolley did his best Mike Blackburn impersonation, running around the edge and throwing over the top of the Panther secondary moving the ball at will. The Bearcats’ defensive line conversely shut down the Panther’s rushing attack stacking six in the box and forcing turnovers on three of AV’s first four possessions. The Bearcats seemed to be running away with the game early, shades of how things unfolded the year before. AV managed to muster a score on a pass from quarterback Garrett Mezzanatto to senior receiver Salvador Gutierrez right before half to cut the Potter Valley lead to 14 points.
Garrett and Salvador were just warming up.
The first half began with the ball in the Panthers’ hands, as running back Omar Benevides took a stretch run off the right side and 35 yards for the score on the half’s first play. Suddenly the Bearcats’ lead was cut to one touchdown. The Bearcats answered with another score, and the third quarter saw both teams trade scoring drives allowing Potter Valley to maintain their one touchdown lead.
The fourth quarter however was all AV. Up by only three points, Potter Valley was again driving down the field when, on a third down, Salvador again made his presence felt, picking off a Bearcats’ pass attempt. On the next play Garrett would take the ball around the right side on a quarterback keeper and go 63 yards for a score and the Panther’s first lead of the game. Salvador again took matters into his own hands, both kicking and recovering an onside kick to give AV another possession. Then, on the very next play Garrett connected with Salvador on a 30-yard touchdown pass extending the Panther lead.
AV’s superior conditioning and time spent in the weight room had taken the game over in the fourth, as a now inspired and energized Panther defense punished Potter Valley’s exhausted offense. Potter Valley submitted with a punt on fourth down while time was on the clock and the game still technically within reach.
In what will again go down as one of the great games in this program’s history, Jason Sanchez racked up 21 tackles and had three passes defended. Omar Benavides was the focus of Potter Valley’s defensive attack all night but still managed 92 yards on 17 carries and three catches for 36 yards. Salvador Gutierrez finished with nine catches for 166 yards and three touchdowns. Garrett Mezzanatto had the biggest game of his career, going 12 for 17 with 202 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 149 yards and four touchdowns. Both Garrett and Salvador have been selected as AV’s co players of the week.
This Friday, the Panthers take on visiting Rincon Valley Christian in the last home game of the season. In attendance will be a representative from the section who is working on organizing a playoff tournament for the end of the season. He has selected our Panthers as the team to watch to get a feel for the new eight-man format.
The Panther football team needs your help. A strong showing of support from the community will help convince the section that our boys deserve a post-season opportunity. Please come out to the game, rain or shine, and support a wonderful, talented group of kids.