Big Fourth Quarter Helps Keystone Pull Away from Smethport; Panthers Now 7-1
(Photo of Keystone’s Nick Weaver. Photo by Kyle Yates www.facebook.com/YatesPhoto)
The Panthers went from nursing a six-point lead with Smethport inside the Keystone 20-yard line late in the third quarter to scoring three times in a matter of 4:59 in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 52-24 win.
Reslisten to the game:
“They stepped up defensively and made some huge plays,” Keystone second-year head coach Ryan Smith said. “There were a couple of sacks, a fumble, a big pick on tips. We knew it was going to be a nip-and-tuck, back-and-forth game but our guys, I told them go win it, and they really buckled down, took care of the defense and came through offensively.”
Leading 30-24 with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter in a game that had seen seven lead changes up to that point, Keystone’s defense was on its heels with Smethport having a second down at the Panthers 18-yard line.
But penetration stopped Braedon Johnson for no gain on third down and Noah Lent threw incomplete on fourth down giving the Panthers the ball back.
Eighty-plus yards later, Nick Weaver found the end zone from 10 yards out to push the lead to 14 points, 38-24, the first double-digit lead of the game for either team.
Caleb Nellis and Travis Greenawalt then came up with the Burger King Whopper Play of the Game when Nellis broke threw and strip-sacked Smethport quarterback Noah Lent and Greenawalt fell on the ball.
“All I remember is I was running through the line and I saw his back,” Nellis said. “So I just thought, ‘aw I am getting it.’”
That turnover led to a 43-yard touchdown run by Weaver, his fifth of the game. He ran 14 times for 236 yards.
“Our o-line just being amazing and blocking super well,” Weaver said. “It goes back to the line, blocking, making me be able to make those cuts.”
Smith said Weaver, who also scored on runs of 2, 15 and 53 yards, runs the ball hard and sees the field so well.
“He sees where those opening holes are and he can cut back, he can bounce it,” Smith said. “But the line has been amazing opening up holes for Nick and T-Bone (Taylar Altman).”
Altman had a big game as well rushing 15 times for 141 yards and a touchdown, as Keystone ran for 307 yards as a team.
Altman’s touchdown came on a 20-yard run with 4:22 to play after Nellis tipped a Lent pass to himself and picked it off.
Prior to the fourth quarter, the game was as back-and-forth as one could hope with the seven lead changes leaving everyone to think it was going to come down to the wire.
“I thought it was going to be a dog fight until the end,” Nellis said. “We just got the hard work in, and we kept pushing.”
Watch the postgame interview with Nellis, Weaver and Greenawalt.
Keystone scored first on a 2-yard Weaver run after Smethport fumbled the opening kickoff to go up 6-0.
Smethport answered back with a 40-yard run by Johnson, who ran for 84 yards on 14 carries, to go ahead, 8-6, following a two-point conversion run by Lent.
Keystone came right back when Isaak Jones hit Keenan Heeter with a 12-yard touchdown pass that made it 14-8 Keystone following Jayden Blazosky’s two-point run.
It was Johnson again for Smethport scoring on a 15-yard run that coupled with Lent’s two-point run put Smethport back in front, 16-14, early in the second quarter.
Keystone answered again with a 15-yard run by Weaver and one of Weaver’s three tw0point run to take a 22-16 halftime lead.
The Panthers then were set to receive the opening kickoff of the second half, but a fumble gave the ball to Smethport.
The Hubbers quickly took advantage with Lent scored from a yard out and added the 2-point run to make it 24-22 just a 3:07 into the second half.
Lent finished the game 4 of 12 passing for 72 yards and two picks while rushing 14 times for 84 yards.
Keystone answered right back less than two minutes later taking the lead for good, 30-24, on a 53-yard scoring run by Weaver.
The victory improved the Panthers to 7-1 on the year. It ties this year’s team with the 2009 (7-4) and the 2001 (7-3) teams for the third-most wins in program history. Only the 1989 (12-1) and 1988 (9-1) teams have won more games in Keystone history.
“I am so proud of these guys,” Smith said. “The heart that they have, the care that they have for each other, the time they have put in to get to this point, they want to change the atmosphere of how Keystone football has been. They are taking it to new heights. I am so proud of them.”
Keystone returns to action Friday vs. Elk County Catholic at St. Marys High School, while Smethport, which fell to 5-2, is home to Coudersport with the D9 League Small School North title on the line.
Watch Smith’s full postgame comments.
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