Panthers struggle against Pirates running game
By: MACK SPENCER
BERWICK — Kaplan’s Pirates ran roughshod over the homestanding Panthers Friday night, and that’s with emphasis on the run.
Eight Pirates combined to plow through the Panther defense for 434 yards on the ground en route to the 45-14 victory.
“We didn’t overlook” Berwick, Kaplan coach Stephen Lotief said. “The defense smothered them, and the offense did what it had to do.”
Kaplan’s longest drives of the first half were nine plays and six plays, both of which ended in touchdowns. Three straight Kaplan scoring drives in the first half consisted of just one play, including a 63-yard pass from Kameron Abshire to Tyson Broussard, one of only two completed passes of the night for the Pirates; a 60-yard run by Broussard straight up the middle, almost untouched; and a 1-yard plunge by Sam Hoffpauir after a botched Berwick punt resulted in a tackle of Panther punter Bryan Hernandez near the goal line.
The Pirates punted only once in the game, lost one fumble and gave the ball away on downs once. The Pirates other eight possessions were seven scoring drives and a three-play set that ended with halftime.
Kaplan didn’t have a fourth down until the second half, when the team had already built a 38-0 halftime lead.
Berwick, in contrast, punted seven times, also lost a fumble and gave up its second possession on an interception.
“We got third-and-shorts,” Berwick coach Craig Brodie said. “We just couldn’t convert and keep moving. When we were down just a couple of scores early, if we could have converted and kept moving, we might have done better.”
The Panthers’ first possession looked promising, with a 63-yard reception of a Reed Leonard pass by Matt Skelton on third down, but a penalty for blocking in the back brought the ball back to the Berwick 25-yard line — still a gain of 10 yards, even though third down was played over.
The Panthers couldn’t pick up three yards for the first down, however, despite burning two timeouts, deciding to try to pull Kaplan offside and then not succeeding. Two possessions later, the Panthers began a string of five straight series of three plays and a punt.
Berwick tacked on two late scores on long runs, a 73-yard dash near the end of the third quarter by Josh Engleton and a 90-yard score by Brad Lemoine as the game clock expired.
“We emptied our benches,” Lotief said. “All the boys played good except for two (scoring) plays.”
Broussard led the Pirates rushing and receiving with 129 yards on the ground and 63 yards on his one catch. Abshire had 75 yards passing, two receptions in five attempts, with his only other reception going to Trey Choate.
Also gaining yardage on the ground for the Pirates were Hoffpauir, 85 yards; Jante Rutland, 84 yards; Dylan Roussel, 64 yards; Tyler Buford, 47 yards; Jaron Smith, 17 yards; and Abshire and Jobe Cormier, 4 yards each.
The Pirates amassed 509 total offensive yards.
Berwick rolled up 234 total yards, with only 37 yards through the air, all by starting quarterback Leonard on four completions in 15 attempts.
Lemoine hauled in a 23-yard pass for the team’s long. Drew Landry made a 9-yard reception and Skelton had two receptions for 6 yards and a loss of 1 yard.
Engleton led the Panther rushing attack with 99 yards, followed by Lemoine with 90 yards on his lone scoring run. Other Panther running backs were in single digits: Lucas Loya, 5 yards; Skelton, 4 yards; Leonard and Bobby Boudreaux, 3 yards each; Blake Wain, 2 yards; and Landry, minus-9 yards thanks to a sack after a wild snap.
“These kids bring a lot of enthusiasm. They work hard and they prepare well for the next game,” Brodie said. “I’m proud of this team. I’ve coached a lot of teams that didn’t have that kind of character. There’s heart and desire there, and you can’t coach that.”
Next week, both teams will play in Vermilion Parish, where Kaplan will face parish rival Erath and Berwick will visit Abbeville.