Panthers run game too much for Cats in home opener

BY COLTEN STEELE
WEEKLY REPORTER
Running back Mason Hewitt jumps a defender to score his first touchdown of the evening, and the first for the Panthers, against the Normal West Wildcats last Friday. Hewitt would go on to score another touchdown and racking up 275 rushing yards on 29 carries. (O'Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

Running back Mason Hewitt jumps a defender to score his first touchdown of the evening, and the first for the Panthers, against the Normal West Wildcats last Friday. Hewitt would go on to score another touchdown and racking up 275 rushing yards on 29 carries.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

It was a beautiful evening for the home opener in O’Fallon Friday night as the Panthers outlasted the Normal West Wildcats in a shootout 48-35 to get their first home win of the season.

Temperatures around game time were in the low 70’s and that was just the beginning to a great night of high school football. The running game consisting of Mason Hewitt, Richard Cosey, and quarterback Christian Perez was simply too much to handle for the Wildcats. Hewitt and Cosey combined for 386 yards on the night.

The game started very close, each team scoring almost each time they held the ball. Offenses started off hot, and that would be the case for most of the evening. Senior running back, Mason Hewitt got off to a quick start as he scored two touchdowns for his team in the very first quarter.

Junior running back Cosey says he gives all credit to his offensive lineman.

“With our line giving us great blocks, it is very easy for us to find the gaps in the defense,” said Cosey in a postgame interview.

The Panthers started off hot in the second quarter as Herm Rich intercepted a pass from Normal West quarterback Peyton Dillingham. The Panthers would then end up losing their first quarter lead and would trail only by one point, 15-14.

The Panthers offense led by Perez at the helm would then drive down and score on a twenty-five yard bullet pass to Cosey to reclaim their lead 21-15 midway through the second quarter. O’Fallon would then take a promising lead at the intermission, leading 28-15 after a Perez rushing touchdown from eighteen yards out.

Although the Panthers had a gratifying lead going into halftime, the Wildcats weren’t going down without a fight. Normal West caused a turnover right out of the gate, and turned it into points on a gutsy fourth down call. The Wildcats went on to score a touchdown, and close the gap to 28-22.

Quarterback Christian Perez launches the ball to wide receiver Deion Norfleet, while Wildcat defensive lineman Ryan Jurich attempts to swat it out of the sky. (O'Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

Quarterback Christian Perez launches the ball to wide receiver Deion Norfleet, while Wildcat defensive lineman Ryan Jurich attempts to swat it out of the sky. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

Perhaps one of the biggest plays of the night was when Senior, Darryl Cobb Jr. had an interception returned for a touchdown to increase O’Fallon’s lead, and gain back their momentum. From that point on, the Wildcats would try and hang around with the scorching offense O’Fallon had going, but it was their defense that was being outplayed. The Panthers had a total of 450 yards on offense, which help lead the way to victory.

Cosey kept up his play and went on to score two more touchdowns on the night, giving him three total for the game. The offense did its part tonight, scoring whenever they had the ball in their hands, but it was the defense that stepped up and made huge contributing plays towards the end of the game to secure the victory. After an offensive turnover, the defense had

to come out and create a stop. Junior linebacker, Devin Monahan came through with a third down sack that would take the hope out of the Normal West Wildcats.

A late touchdown by Richard Cosey would help the Panthers feel more comfortable with their lead heading near the end of the game. The score would then be 48-35

O’Fallon, with six minutes left in regulation. A very key moment in the game was when Deion Norfleet came up with the interception to seal the deal for the Panthers, and close out the win with under six minutes to go. Panthers would then dial back to their duo in the backfield between Hewitt, and Cosey to help windle the clock down. The Panthers would then be faced with fourth down, and Christian Perez had a strike down the middle of the field to close the game out. The gamewinning kneel was taken, and the Panthers got their first home win of the season.

The Panthers will again be at home this week, as they prepare to face their first conference opponent, Belleville West at 7 p.m. on Friday.