BLOOMSBURG - A Warrior Run's preseason media day back in August, Defender coach Mark Burrows said that the key to his team's success this year, especially early in the season, would be establishing the running game.
The Defenders struggled doing so in their first two games, needing to play from behind in both contests, and while they had some early success against Bloomsburg on Friday they did not sustain it and the Panthers overcame a slow start and a penalty-filled first half and pulled away in the second half to top Warrior Run, 35-7.
"The score was 35-7 but I'm pretty proud of how our kids played," said Warrior Run coach Mark Burrows. "Our depth caught up to us. The kids played their tails off. I can't fault the way we played. That's a big change from the first two weeks of the year and how we played tonight. I think we got better tonight and we just need to keep getting better as the weeks go by."
Warrior Run, which had its first-string tailback Derek Keiser leave the team recently, particularly struggled with depth in the backfield as Zach Burrows handled all but one of the carries for the Defenders, finishing with 42 yards, 14 of which came on Warrior Run's first drive of the game in which it picked up its only two first downs on the contest as Bloomsburg had 25 first downs to Warrior Run's two. The Defenders could only muster up six yards through the air on three completions.
"We've got to get something going in the passing game to compliment the run and we didn't do a good job at that tonight. When teams put eight and nine guys in the box, that's what you're going to get and our kids know that," said Burrows.
The Defenders' best offense on the night came via the kickoff returns of William Michael, who finished the night with 214 all-purpose yards, of which 211 came on kickoff returns, including an 83-yard return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The speedy junior also had returns of 46, 31 and 29 yards, but the Defender offense was unable to capitalize on them.
Warrior Run kept Bloomsburg off the scoreboard early, as the Defenders stopped the Panthers inside the Bloomsburg 1-yard line on fourth down on their first drive of the game, making the Panthers come away from a 12-play drive with no points. Penalties hampered Bloomsburg in the first half, as it committed eight of its nine penalties in the first half, resulting in nearly 60 lost yards.
The Panthers finally finished a sustained drive midway through the second quarter when Ricky Klingerman ran it in from three yards out to break the scoreless tie. Bloomsburg would score again on its next drive as Klingerman found Sam Miller in the end zone from 25 yards out to put the Panthers up 14-0 heading into the break.
Bloomsburg cleaned up its act in the second half, and the Panthers scored on their first two drives of the third quarter while holding the Defenders to three three-and-outs on their three drives of the quarter.
Despite their sloppy play early on, Bloomsburg came away with some impressive numbers on the stat sheet for the game, as Klingerman went 20-for-26 through the air for 222 yards and a touchdown without an interception.