The Panthers were practically perfect in the first half Saturday against Mapleton.
St. Mary Central Catholic scored on four of five offensive possessions, posting a 31-12 victory to hand Ryan Wikel his first win as a head coach.
"I'll have time to think about that another time, but this is special for the kids," Wikel said. "They've worked hard and they deserve this. Hopefully there are more to come down the road."
There will be if the Panthers can bottle what happened in the first 24 minutes against the Mounties.
St. Mary CC (1-2) started with Patrick Sennish hitting Adam Guerra with a 16-yard scoring strike with 9:25 left in the opening quarter, then successfully recovered a pooch kick off to set up a 6-yard scoring run from Jon Sciarappa to take a 13-0 lead before the Mapleton offense even saw the field.
"We worked on it all week in practice and it never worked, so we figured it might work on game night," Wikel said with a chuckle. "We gave it a try, Pat (Sennish) executed a great kick and his cousin (Ethan) scooped the ball up."
The Panthers got right back into scoring position after a Mapleton punt, misfiring on third- and fourth-down passes to turn the ball over on downs. But a 17-yard punt return by Andrew Carruthers on the final play of the first quarter set up a 26-yard scoring strike from Pat Sennish to Garrett Kowalski just two plays later.
Mapleton (0-3) answered with a 7-pay, 59-yard scoring drive, capped by a 25-yard run from J.J. Pickering but Pat Sennish score on runs of 1 and 3 yards during the final five minutes to push the SMCC lead to 31-6 at the intermission.
It was a particularly impressive performance considering it was Parent's Night and St. Mary CC held a special 9/11 commemorative ceremony prior to the game.
"We knew there were so many things going on that could set the normal routine back," Wikel said. "We made sure our kids were focused from the start and it's a credit to the seniors for taking charge of the football team."
About the only thing to go wrong for the Panthers came on special teams. Pat Sennish converted the first extra-point kick, but it became an adventure from there.
"Offensively, we executed well," Wikel said. "Defensively, we still have some holes to fix, but we'll work the extra point team hard this week. Not that we don't work it hard every week, but this week we'll work it a little more."
Mapleton opened the second half with a 12-play drive that ended with a 2-yard Jon Leibolt touchdown run, but the Mounties turned the ball over on an interception and two punts on their other offensive possessions the rest of the way.
"We did some good things, but overall, it was disappointing because we prepared a lot harder for a better effort," said Mapleton coach Ray Frisbee. "We didn't get the effort we wanted until the second half.
"We have to do a better job in the coming weeks to play a full game and not just a half."
Pickering led the Mapleton offense with 54 yards rushing on eight carries and had three receptions for 36 yards. Skylar Haines picked up 43 yards on six carries and Brett Naymik was 8 of 16 passing for 82 yards and a pair of interceptions.
Brandon Green had a game-high 158 yards rushing on 19 carries, with Sciarappa gained 73 yards on 10 tries. Pat Sennish was 10 of 14 passing of 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with Ethan Sennish ending with three catches for 53 yards.
"Jonny has been in the backup role most of the year, but we knew he runs hard and he played one whale of an offensive football game," Wikel said. "He's one of those kids, when he decides to turn it up a notch, he'll run you over, which is nice to see.
"And Brandon did a nice job of finding the holds. Our kids are young and learning every time they touch the ball."