Welcome to #WallyWorld: PB Takes Down Blazers on Coach Hardy Night

Win Has Panthers on a Roll Heading Into Rivalry Game vs. Springbrook

Chris Hatcher, Anusha Basnyat, Sean Tamayo, Sports Interns

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“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Wally World.”

These words represented the theme of Friday night’s tough divisional matchup between the Panthers and the Blair Blazers, which saw the Panthers walk off with a hard-fought 20-14 win.

Before the game, those in attendance and the teams on the field offered a moment of silence for late Paint Branch community hero Walter Hardy. Although Hardy’s loss devastated the PB Community, the thousands of people – especially students and colleagues – he impacted over his career stand as a testament to his legacy. On this night, many of these people stood in the stands and along the field to watch his beloved Panthers and commemorate his life.  

PB kicked off with a short return from the Blazers. The Panthers defense looked good to start, but fell short the next play as Blair flew into the end zone on a 60-yard catch and run touchdown. The Panthers bounced back quickly with a 30-yard kick return, and the Panther fans could feel the snowball of this red hot offense start to roll. Suddenly, however, this feeling turned sour as an interception and scoring drive gave the Blazers a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

The air in the Panther stands stood still as their perfect season was on the line. Soon after, the Panther’s defense put on some pressure, and junior defensive back Ishmael Agbodzah took an interception back for a touchdown to cut the lead in half. Paint Branch’s tough defense continued to dominate and stopped the Blazers again. This tough “D” led to some strong offense led by senior quarterback Norman Douglas Jr., who completed a short pass to senior running back Justin Hockaday in the end zone. With two touchdowns on the board but no extra points, the Panthers walked into halftime down 14-12.

During halftime, organizers drew twenty lucky names from a pre-game raffle, and fans came down to midfield to play “Tug Wars,” a PB football tug-of-war tradition. Athletic Director Heather Podosek wanted to do something fun and different during halftime to continue honoring the fun-loving demeanor of Coach Hardy. Fans joined Hardy’s son Chase and good friend Ryan in the Tug War. Chase and Ryan defeated their first two opponents before losing to two big bullies, the wrestlers Austin Smith and Tommy Bettinger.

After the fun of halftime, it was time for the true battle to start again. The second half was very defensive oriented, with multiple stops by both Paint Branch and Blair. The long non-scoring period came to an end when junior running back Justin Paige broke through the Blazer’s defense to put up another 6 points for PB and take the lead. The Panthers scored a two-point conversion after the touchdown, also by Paige, extending their lead to the final score of 20-14.

Paige commented on the mentality the team needed to have in order to come out with a win. He said, “We all knew we had to play the second half like the score was 0-0. In the end, we wanted it more than they did, and that’s what led to our win.” The Panthers prepare for a Thursday night matchup against Consortium rival Springbrook, and look to keep their record perfect.

 

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