Weekly Feature

2007-10-24 / Sports

Sweet Home finishes off undefeated regular season

Panthers have playoff rematch with Iroquois
by PATRICK J. NAGY Reporter

It wasn't a masterpiece but the Sweet Home Panthers are headed into the Federation playoffs undefeated.

Sweet Home amassed its lowest amount of offensive yards all season (242) but scored 21 points in the first half on route to a 35-7 win at Lewiston-Porter last Friday. The Panthers (8-0) host Iroquois (7-1) at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the first round of the Federation playoffs.

"You got to have the kids, a little luck and improve as the year goes on," said Sweet Home coach John Faller. "They've had to carry the undefeated tag with them every week and always responded. It was nice to see the happy looks on their faces after the Lew-Port game."

It is the first time since 2002 and third time in school history that the Panthers have gone undefeated in the regular season. The 2002 team won the Section VI title.

Sweet Home scored on its first drive against Lew-Port, capped off by a two-yard TD run by senior Marcus Johnson. Johnson sprained his right ankle later in the quarter and was taken out of the game as a precautionary measure. Faller expects Johnson to play against Iroquois. Will Reese replaced Johnson and ran nine times for 39 yards.

Sweet Home's next score was set up by a bizarre play. In the second quarter, junior quarterback Casey Kacz was intercepted but classmate Ryan Gutt forced the Lew-Port defender to fumble the ball and recovered it at the Lew-Port 42. Kacz went on to hit junior Noah Nwachukwu on a 9-yard TD strike.

Nwachukwu caught another 9-yard TD from Kacz, this time in the third quarter, and a 50-yard TD from backup Mike Wolcott in the fourth quarter. Nwachukwu finished with five receptions for 110 yards.

Kacz finished 9 of 12 for 89 yards; Wolcott was 2 for 2 for 53 yards. Kacz has completed 67 percent of his passes (77 for 114) and 14 TDs, tying Grant Schulte for second-most thrown in a single season. The record is 19 set in 2003 by Jon McMahon.

An Andrew Hopkins interception and 60-yard return to the Lew-Port 1 led to a rushing TD from sophomore Deshanaro Morris on the next play to make it 21-0 by halftime.

Lew-Port scored with two seconds left.

Sweet Home and Iroquois are no strangers to each another in the postseason. Since 2002, they've met three four times in the playoffs with each team winning twice.

Sweet Home won 42-15 in 2002 and 28-19 in 2005 to advance to the Class A title game. Iroquois won 28-6 in the 2004 semifinals and 53-20 in last year's section final.

Faller said whoever wins will be the team that makes the fewest mistakes.

"Our defense has been pretty solid so that will determine how far we go," said Faller. "Our offense has been fairly consistent."

Faller said his team has to watch out for Iroquois' running game, led by Brandon Murie, and the throwing of quarterback Wyatt Mariacher.

"Their defense is also quick and aggressive," said Faller.

"For the seniors, it's their last chance to go to (Ralph Wilson) Stadium," Faller added. "It's do or die. It's great to be 8-0 but we have to keep winning or else we'll feel like we didn't get it done."

e-mail: pnagy@beenews.com

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