The Pattonsburg scoring machine picked up where it left off last year, spoiling Bishop LeBlond’s inaugural 8-man matchup by winning a 66-26 offensive showcase on Friday at Eagle Stadium.
From the outset, the Panthers poked holes in the Golden Eagles’ defense all over the field. They capped off their opening drive with a 1-yard scrambling touchdown run from star quarterback Steven Willhite, before converting on an onside kick, marching downfield, and scoring again.
With just four minutes elapsed on the game clock, Pattonsburg (1-0) had already buried LeBlond (0-1) under a 16-0 deficit.
“We’re gonna play a fastbreak style of football, because we want the ball back. We want the ball in our offense’s hands, and it was obvious why tonight,” Panthers coach Scott Cavin said. “It’s a huge part of our game plan just to get on teams early and take some breath out of them.”
Senior quarterback Willhite was front and center as always, scoring seven touchdowns on the night. By halftime when he was pulled, he had already propelled them to a 52-6 lead.
But it could take even more than that per game to match his astronomical 82 touchdown total from last season.
His expectations for this season are pretty simple.
“I just want to get a couple more than I did last year,” Willhite said. “That’s my general goal for this year.”
Cavin touched on Willhite’s inherent gift for playing the position.
“It’s amazing, he said during an interview last year ‘It’s easy, I just throw a football’, but it’s not easy,” Cavin said. “It just comes naturally to him, and thankfully we have athletes around him who can catch it.”
Playing in their first regular season game at the 8-man level, LeBlond experienced typical growing pains of a team still finding its legs as they transition to a new form of the sport with a new coach.
Ultimately, coach Eric Fairchild was encouraged by the effort of his team.
“We played hard, as a first year head coach with a new group of kids you just want them to play hard because that means they’re buying into what you’re teaching,” Fairchild said. “Obviously we don’t have time to do all that we want to do going into a game like this, but I was really proud of their effort.”
A particular bright spot for the Eagles was the gritty, hard-fought debut of freshman quarterback Landon Gardner, who finished with four touchdowns and more than a few long gains on the ground in the losing effort.
“He’s just tough. He took some big shots, and the biggest thing was he threw a couple interceptions early and he was able to battle back,” Fairchild said. “Sometimes with freshman quarterbacks they’d be so down, so negative after that, that they wouldn’t be able to operate. But that’s not Landon. There’s a certain swagger to that kid and he has a chance to be really special.”
Gardner was put through something of a trial by fire in his first varsity season, but even though there’s things to work on, he thinks he’s feeling it all come together.
“Coming out, as a freshman, it’s kind of nerve wracking. But once we pulled together, I think we did pretty good,” Gardner said. “I’ve got those nerves out, and I’m ready for next Friday.”
Bishop LeBlond will take on North Andrew in Week 2, while Pattonsburg plays hosts to Braymer.