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Football

Quakertown Panthers ousted in district semifinals

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One thing’s for sure.
Quakertown is on the football map in District One.
The Panthers saw their outstanding run in the District One Class 6A football playoffs come to an end on Friday night in the semifinals with a 58-39 loss to top seed Garnet Valley at Garnet Valley’s Moe DeFrank Stadium.
They were in it for most of the game, and actually put the first points on the board in the first quarter when John Eatherton’s 2-yard run followed by a Riley Gaj kick capped off a 55-yard drive.
The Jaguars tied it up in the beginning of the second quarter and went up 14-7 in that period.
Quakertown’s answer was another TD by Eatherton, this one for 13 yards, and another Gaj kick to tie the score at 14-14 but Garnet Valley came back with another touchdown. The Panthers blocked the extra point attempt so the score was 20-14.
The Panthers regained the lead when Will Steich found Tyler Woodman for an 11-yard touchdown catch with 13.1 seconds to go.
Quakertown then recovered a fumble on the kickoff at Garnet Valley’s 16-yard line, and Gaj put up a 33-yard field goal to send the Panthers into halftime with a 24-20 lead.
Things were looking good for the Panthers in the beginning of the second half, when they recovered Gaj’s onside kick at the Jaguars’ 29-yard line. They didn’t convert on fourth and short, giving Garnet Valley the ball. Navy-bound Shane Reynolds ran 65 yards for the first of 22 unanswered points the Jaguars would score.
But Quakertown didn’t quit. Zach Fondl caught a 19-yard touchdown throw from Steich to open the fourth quarter, then with 7:33 to go, Eatherton caught a 52-yard pass from Steich for a TD.
With 5:11 to go, Reynolds iced the cake for the Jaguars with a 43-yard touchdown run to give the home team a 58-39 edge, which would hold up for the remainder of play.
“I thought we had a chance until the final touchdown they scored,” Steich said. “It’s just tough to lose like that.
“I thought our guys fought all game. We had a couple of plays not go our way. That’s just the name of the game.”
This was the most points Garnet Valley gave up all season.

“Their offense is unstoppable,” Fondl said. “Our offense did the best we could. We had a great run. I wouldn’t take any of it back.
“Coming out we had some mojo. Halftime we had some mojo. They came out hot and they’re a great team. They just outplayed us, but I think we played a great game. there’s not much more that we could have done. We left it all on the field.”
This is the most wins in a season for any Quakertown football team, and the first time the Panthers have won more than one game in the postseason.
“I think we’ve definitely opened some eyes,” Steich said. “I wish we could have continued it, but I hope this sets them up, sets coach (George) Banas up. He’s my favorite coach ever. I love that man to death. I wish the best of luck to him and all the guys next year.”
Steich ended the evening 23-for-39 for 325 yards and three touchdowns, Eatherton had 10 catches for 171 yards and six carries for 14 yards and three touchdowns, and Fondl made six catches for 84 yards and a TD for the Panthers.

Also for Quakertown, Lex Williams rushed for 43 yards in 17 carries, Zach Greulich caught two passes for 28 yards, Vincent Micucci made three catches for 21 yards and Kaden Roesener chipped in with an interception.
“We thought we would have to stop them three or four times, but we thought our offense could run with them,” Banas said. “It’s 24-20 at half, and we get the kickoff to start the second half. If we punch it in there, maybe it’s a different story because momentum would have definitely been big there.
“To win games like this, you have to have things go your way. We had some things go our way but just not enough tonight. We played well into the fourth quarter. It was a two-score game. It’s definitely a lot closer game than it was in ’18 here (a 49-14 district loss to Garnet Valley).”
It was the first loss of the season for Quakertown, now 12-1. Garnet Valley (13-0) advances to the title game on Friday, taking on Coatesville.
Once again, the visitors’ stands were full of the Panthers faithful who cheered right up until the final whistle.
“They’re phenomenal,” Banas said. “It’s an hour-and-a-half drive, it’s packed and it’s standing room on the sidelines. They’re awesome, and they’ll show up on Thursday.”
The Panthers, who were seeded fifth in the district tourney, still have one game left on their schedule – the annual Thanksgiving Day clash with Pennridge, hosted this year by the Rams at 10:15 a.m.
“I’ve never beaten them so hopefully this will be our year,” Steich said.


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