The Norfolk High Panthers lost 21-10 to the Lincoln Southwest Silver Hawks in a district football match-up played at Veterans Memorial Field in Norfolk Friday night.
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Although Norfolk’s top two quarterbacks--senior Taylor Reedy and sophomore Gunner Fuelberth-- were on the sideline in street clothes, converted running back Chase Hopper took over behind center and guided the Panthers to 10 second-quarter points that had Norfolk in the game trailing 14-10 at the half.
However, Norfolk’s offense in the first half featured significantly more run than pass--specifically Hayden Johnson’s 13 carries for 54 yards, including a one-yard touchdown run. But, following an injury in the second quarter, Johnson remained on the sideline the second half as well.
Meanwhile, Southwest’s power running-based offense--featuring the rushing of junior Noah Lazaro--began to take a toll on Norfolk’s defense. Lazaro, who carried the ball 17 times in the first half for 61 yards, added another 77 yards on 7 carries in the second half and got help from fullback Matthew Mansur, who contributed 56 yards on seven tries. Lazaro scored two of the Silver Hawks’ touchdowns in the game while quarterback Chase Gobel scored the third.
Southwest’s ability to pick up first downs on the ground allowed the Silver Hawks to overcome over 90 yards in penalties.
“We had some facemask penalties, but we didn’t have a lot of procedure penalties,” Southwest’s head coach Mark King said. “I can live with some aggressive penalties, but that’s the biggest improvement that our football team has made in the last few weeks is to eliminate a lot of our stupid penalties. Those have been a big factor in previous games, but we’re also slowly but surely getting healthy.”
The Silver Hawks’ passing game added just six completions in nine attempts for 59 yards, but Coach King wasn’t complaining about his squad relying on its running game.
“We’re growing in that direction,” King said. “We’ve worked awfully hard at that. Lazaro is our starting running back, but we actually have three good running backs. We also used Jamie Brown, and mixed in a little bit of Tyler Bordeaux. Running most of the time is the way we’d like to be, and when you play Norfolk’s defense they’re blitzing all the time, so sometimes it’s harder to pass block than to run block. We didn’t want to get into situations where we faced long downs. They may stuff us where we lose one or two yards, but then we might bust one for 40 yards.”
Coach Tom Olson felt that the Panthers continued to play with effort in spite of the adversity created by the injuries his team has incurred. Without Johnson, Olson returned Chase Hopper to running back during the second half and went with sophomore Riggins Hopper at quarterback. Riggins completed five of 10 passes with one interception.
“Heart wasn’t the issue,” Olson said. “Our kids played hard. I felt really good about that. I thought our defense played pretty well, and I thought that they continued to play with pride even though we weren’t picking up first downs to keep them off the field. The number one reason we went with Riggins at quarterback is that I wanted to get Chase back to running back. That’s his strength, and without Johnson we weren’t really able to run the ball. Riggins throws the ball really well, and at that point in time I thought it enhanced our run game and our passing game.”
Norfolk’s offensive output in the game included 97 yards on the ground on 25 rushes and 12 completions in 28 passing attempts for 102 yards with two interceptions.
An interception in the first half by Southwest’s linebacker Mansur set up the Silver Hawks’ first touchdown, a 46-yard drive that ended with Lazaro’s seven-yard run, but Norfolk used an up-tempo no-huddle approach to drive 71 yards in 14 plays to tie the score at 7-7 on Johnson’s one-yard run.
The Panthers also answered Southwest’s second touchdown, a one-yard quarterback by Gobel, with a 21-yard field goal by Kyle Temple that
cut the Silver Hawks’ halftime lead to 14-10.
But Southwest’s success running the ball in the second half took time off the clock and kept the ball away from Norfolk, allowing Lazaro’s third quarter touchdown run, and the resulting Silver Hawks’ 21-10 lead, to become the game’s final score.
With the win, Lincoln Southwest improves to 4-3 on the season. Meanwhile the Panthers, now 4-3 on the season, will look to rebound next Friday when district-leading Lincoln East visits Norfolk.
Lincoln Southwest (4-3) 7 7 7 0--21
Norfolk (4-3) 0 10 0 0--10
LSW: Noah Lazaro 7 yd run, Ryan Lindahl kick, 2:54.
NHS: Hayden Johnson 1 yd run, Kyle Temple kick, 10:33.
LSW: Chase Gobel 1 yd run, Lindahl kick, 4:04.
NHS: Templ 21 yd FG, :07.
LSW: Lazaro 3 yd run, Lindahl kick, 7:24