October 25, 2014

SSC football opens season with tough loss to Almont

James Kuch
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STANDISH — The Standish-Sterling Central Panthers fell behind early and rallied late, but could not recover against the Almont Raiders.

At the season-opening game Friday, Aug. 27, the Panthers charged back with a late touchdown in the fourth quarter followed by a two-point conversion off a mishandled snap. But it was not enough to catch the Raiders who won 14-8.

Head coach Paul Walderzak said the game was good but the Panthers made “effort mistakes.”

“They (the Raiders) won the first half; we won the second,” he said. “Defensively we jumped offside on fourth down a couple of times. There is a line between effort and discipline.”

Walderzak said the Panthers started the game up tight

The Panthers fell behind after a failed fake punt attempt in their own territory led to a Raider touchdown followed by a missed PAT.

The Panthers began the second quarter facing a fourth down on the Raider’s 15-yard-line with five yards to go. Quarterback Ryan Whitman’s pass was incomplete and Almont responded with a 3-yard touchdown run by Evan Shelton.

Walderzak said there was a play where the Panthers defense misread the play.

“We would like to believe that we can go out and stop every play,” he said. “But that is just not going to happen.”

SSC trailed at halftime 14-0, but came out in attack mode in the second half.

Garrett Pierce ran back-to-back plays of more than10 yards and with 8:49 remaining in the third, the Panthers converted at fourth and inches. That play was followed by a penalty and interception in the end zone by Almont’s Kevin Creger.

“If anything came out of this game, we did play better in the second half, and we did not give up,” Walderzak said.

After a fumble in Raider territory with 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter, all seemed lost for SSC. After getting the ball back in the fourth quarter, the Panthers were able to string together first downs, highlighted by a key first down conversion by Whitman and a tipped catch by Tyler Steinbauer with 6:36 remaining in regulation.

The lone Panther touchdown by Pierce and the two-point-conversion by Channing Spencer put SSC in striking distance. But a failed onside-kick and a late turnover sealed the Panthers’ fate.

“We are disappointed, and we feel that we should have won,” Walderzak said. “But you have got to rebound quick.”

He added that every team wants to come back stronger every week, but he said it’s a process.

“We need to work on everything,” Walderzak said. “We feel good about a lot of things, but we are not solid.”

He added that continuing to improve is a process that will continue.

“It’s time to wake up,” Walderzak said.

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