AMBOY – Mental agility is often as valuable as the physical kind.
Facing a pivotal fourth-and-long late in the first quarter Friday night at The Harbor, Erie-Prophetstown converted, thanks to a brilliant diagnosis by its center, Kyle Coleman.
It sustained a 95-yard touchdown drive – the first score of the game – in the Panthers’ 26-7 Three Rivers North victory over Amboy.
Up to that point, the Clippers (2-4, 2-1) had stuffed the Panthers’ steam plow of a fullback, Nick Williams, every time they ran over center.
But Chuck Milem took a timeout on fourth-and-7, and his center approached him.
“I just saw the way they were setting up on the line,” Coleman said. “They had two wide to the left side and no one set up to the right side, and the linebackers were flowing with motion. I knew if we ran it right, we’d get it.”
Williams picked up 12 of his 227 yards on that play and, three plays later, scored from 5 yards out for a 6-0 lead 23 seconds before halftime.
“It’s just good communication from our kids,” Milem said. “There’s a lot of seniors up there who understand everything. There’s a lot of 4.0 GPA kids, and that helps a lot.”
The score came on the heels of Amboy’s second fumble lost in the red zone. The Clippers’ leading rusher, Jason Bontz (21 rushes for 104 yards) coughed up the rock at the Panthers’ 20 at the end of the first quarter.
Bontz came back with eight rushes for 59 yards on the next Amboy drive, but the ninth carry that didn’t happen hurt.
Staring down momentum heading into the half, a bad exchange between Bontz and quarterback Liam Ohlendorf was recovered by the Panthers, setting up the aforementioned drive.
“We definitely need to take advantage of those opportunities,” Amboy receiver Damon Quest said. “They’re a very good team. Obviously, there’s rainy weather, but we both have to play in it. You have to punch those in.”
That’s when – despite the storms being pushed back until after Friday night’s games – lightning struck and thunder followed.
On his first touch of the game, Jordan Chandler took a toss right 80 yards in 12 seconds, making it 14-0 when Sean Maloney caught the 2-point conversion pass.
Amboy countered on the second play of its next drive, Ohlendorf standing in against a heavy rush and lofting it deep for Quest. The senior ran under it for a 44-yard touchdown with 2:31 left in the third.
“It was a great ball. Liam threw a great ball there,” Quest said. “Bontz gets carry after carry, and it opens things up like that.”
Canaan Ross added the point after, but Chandler scored on a sweep right from 55 yards away less than 2 minutes later to restore a two-score lead at 20-7.
When there’s lightning, Thunder follows, and Williams scored from 35 yards out with 4:24 left to ice the game.
Chandler had 138 yards on three carries, and the Panthers outrushed the Clippers 384-173.
“Finally, after they started keying on [Williams], it started opening up the outside for us,” Chanlder said. “Without him, I don’t get any touches. It’s all him and the line. I just got lucky enough to get a couple of touches and get through.”
“Of course, he’s being modest,” said Williams, who ran his season total to 19 touchdowns. “He’s playing a great game. I love this kid.”