ERIE – An expected shootout between Orion and Erie-Prophetstown on Friday night didn’t materialize.
That was due in large part to the Panthers’ defense, and specifically, sophomore defensive end Jack Heflin.
After spotting the Chargers a touchdown on their first possession, the E-P defense was dominant the rest of the way en route to a 28-7 victory. The Panthers (7-2) now wait to see who their opponent will be in the Class 3A playoffs, while the Chargers (4-5) saw their playoff bubble burst.
“I’m amped. This is awesome,” Heflin said. “Being a sophomore in the playoffs is pretty sweet. I’m so excited, and I hope we can go far this year.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Heflin entered the game with four sacks, but he matched that total, plus half of one he shared with linemate Kenneth Cole. The Chargers were averaging 34.7 points per game, but their spread offense was slowed down by the tenacious Panthers.
“I just wanted to get to the quarterback,” Heflin said. “They have long-developing pass routes, so the corners and safety and linebackers did a great job tonight. If it wasn’t for them, none of this would have happened.”
Erie-Prophetstown, meanwhile, didn’t put up the crazy fantasy football numbers it had in previous games, but was efficient, nonetheless. The Panthers put up 322 yards, all but 6 of them on the ground. Senior fullback Nick Williams entered the game with more than 1,600 yards, but was held to 113 yards on 22 carries.
Ethan Howard (11-95, TD) and Chris Bauer (8-84, 2 TDs) shared the workload this time around.
“We knew we could be balanced all year, because our halfbacks are very special, and Howard shows he can finish things, and he has all year when he gets the opportunity,” Erie-Prophetstown coach Chuck Milem said. “It’s just that Nick’s been the show all year. If they take him away, we feel like those other three backs can do it for us.”
Bauer scored on runs of 6 and 29 yards in the first quarter to put the Panthers up 12-7, a lead they took into halftime. Howard then got loose on a 66-yard touchdown run on the first play of the third quarter, giving E-P some much-needed breathing room.
An 8-yard TD run by Williams late in the third quarter finished off the scoring.
Orion began the game with a 13-play, 66-yard march capped off by a 10-yard run by Jacob Edmunds. The Chargers couldn’t get into the end zone again, however, as they were thwarted by a tough E-P defense led by Heflin, Kenneth Cole and Bauer also produced interceptions to end Orion threats.
“The thing that hurts us with our no-huddle offense is we move very quickly,” Orion coach Chip Filler said, “but if we’re not moving the ball, we’re not holding it for very long. With their running attack, they’re built very well to defense us, keeping the ball away from us.”