LUBBOCK, Texas — Panhandle Head Coach Dane Ashley knew that his team was playing with confidence.
But even he was taken aback by his Panthers impressive 63-29 Saturday win over Stamford at PlainsCapital Park at Lowrey Field, thanks in large part to a 27-point, second quarter burst.
“I knew they were going to be hard to stop, but we’re a well conditioned team,” Ashley said following the game. “I knew that if we could just not turn the ball over and not give them huge plays, we can wear them down and that’s what happened in the second quarter.”
The Panthers got the first spark of that quarter thanks to a forced fumble and recovery by the defense that led to 57-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Braden Durst to Luke Ray. On the ensuing Stamford snap, lineman Gage Hughey forced a Bevel fumble picked up by defensive lineman Garrett Barnett, who rumbled 44 yards for a touchdown.
It was a cause for celebration for both coach and player, as one of six turnovers forced by the Panhandle defense on the night.
“I was just hoping to score and not get caught by some fast guy,” Barnett said of the touchdown, “And just run with it.”
The Panther offense would keep on rolling, as the Panther offense scored on their next three possessions. Jayse Edwards ran one in from five yards while Durst added a touchdown pass to Mason Reynolds.
Stamford running back Steven Johnson added a score late in the half but Durst would make an emphatic statement at the end of the half, throwing his third touchdown pass of the quarter to Mason Reynolds as time expired in the first half. Durst would finish with 515 total yards of offense.
“We just kept playing,” Durst said of the second quarter burst. “We took the approach like the score was 0-0 and just wanted to outwork everyone.”
“Durst was on fire tonight and he played very well,” Ashley added, “But I thought he came out and threw the ball outstanding tonight. He’s really taken his game to another level.”
Prior to that quarter, Saturday’s game had the makings of a shootout thanks to junior quarterback/defensive back Braden Durst. On offense, he led the Panthers with his legs to open up the scoring with two touchdown runs of 63 and 25 yards respectively.
Stamford countered with two touchdown drives of their own thanks to a 1-yard run by running back Steven Johnson and a 38-yard run by Steven Bevel to lock the scoring at 14-all through one quarter.
After the second quarter explosion, Durst would find his favorite target in Luke Ray for two touchdown passes in the third quarter from 75 and 35 yards respectively. In total, the signal caller finished with The Panthers would add a safety while Stamford threw a late touchdown pass plus a two-point try to wrap up the scoring.
“They (Stamford) are a very athletic team and we outplayed them,” Ashley said. “That’s all you can ask out of your kids.”
Stamford ends their season with a 10-3 record. Panhandle moves to 9-4 and will play Stratford in the Class 2A Division I regional final at a time, place and site to be determined.
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