Through the Rain, Warriors Trump Panthers

Sherwood Warriors 35- Paint Branch Panthers 19

September 16, 2010

The Sherwood Warriors (3-0) got hit in the mouth early. On their first and only Thursday night game this season the upstart Paint Branch Panthers (1-2) took an early 13-0 lead by the time the clock had struck 10 minutes in the second quarter of a rough and tumble game through the driving rain in Sandy Spring.

Merely four minutes into the game, Panther junior quarterback, David Smith, connected with his top target of the night, senior receiver Earvin Anumgba, the apparent replacement for graduated Ivan Tagoe. From nine yards out it gave Paint Branch an early six-point lead. Sherwood could not counter after a 12-play drive stalled in the red-zone and ended with a missed 21-yard field goal from the right hash. The Panthers then proceeded to march 80 yards in 12 plays until Smith and Anumgba hooked up again, this time from 12 yards out, giving the Panthers a 13-point lead.

However an experienced Sherwood side would not let up.

“We have a lot of seniors on this team,” said head coach March Thomas, who starts 11 seniors on offense and 10 on defense, “so that’s what you’d expect. When you’re down 13, you expect a good group of seniors to comeback, which they did. I was very proud of them.”

The Warriors responded quickly to the deficit, hammering out two quick scores, the first of which when senior runningback Jamal Merritt capped a 65-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. After the ensuing kickoff, Paint Branch ran merely three plays until senior Alex Cole picked off an errant David Smith pass and returned it to the Panther 25-yard-line. Once again Thomas put the ball in the hands of Merritt who scored from 12 yards out.

“It feels great to be back out there with my team,” said Merritt who debuted tonight after missing the first two games of the season with a lingering wrist injury sustained at spring passing camp. “We all practiced hard during the week and came out a little slow, but we worked things out at halftime and came out strong.”

One of the main questions in Sherwood camp coming into this season was the undersized Warrior offensive line. However, they performed well in their first real test allowing three Warrior rushers to reach the 50-yard rushing plateau: Merritt (70 yards on seven carries and two touchdowns), senior Dylan Hubbard (101 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns) and senior quarterback A.J. Pignone (64 yards on nine carries and a rushing touchdown).

The line held fast against the relatively bigger Panther defense and protected Pignone, who was rarely pressured all night. “They could not stop us,” said the senior quarterback who also finished with 139 yards through the air, completing 71-percent of his passes. “The line kept on pushing and pushing and pushing. They showed a lot of heart tonight and got us out of here with a win.”

The Panthers are sent home to face the depleted and winless Wootton Patriots next week while the Warriors are set to travel to cross town rival Magruder in what will surely be another physical test against the Colonels.


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