October 01, 2022

Eye of the Panther

GILBERT — Creston’s record remains unblemished at 4-0, after a thrilling 40-36 victory against the Gilbert Tigers. The Panthers scored 26 unanswered points over final 6:10 of the game.

“We’ve had some good ones throughout the course of me being head coach,” Creston head coach Brian Morrison said. “Our kids fought... First half we came out flat. We made mistakes, they had field position and took advantage of it.”

Despite stopping the Tigers on a fourth and goal on the Creston 2, a handoff between Kyle Strider and Brennan Hayes hit the Gilbert turf and was recovered by the Tigers. With new life and field position, Gilbert took two plays to score from the Panther 9 and Will Hawthorne scored the first of his four touchdowns with 3:25 left in the first quarter.

Kyle Strider, who completed exactly half of his passes, 22-of-44 for 400 yards, threw his longest completion of the night to Dylan Calvin for a 61 yard score. Calvin led all Panther receivers with seven receptions for 162 yards.

Tiger quarterback Owen Kautman found his fellow first named friend Owen Wirth for a 7 yard score with 8:01 left in the second quarter. Hawthorne added his second touchdown with a minute left in the first half.

Strider punched in the final score of the first half with a plunge from the Tiger 3 with 5.9 seconds remaining.

Brennan Hayes hauled the rock 14 times for 116 yards and Strider had eight rushes for 10 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Creston’s opening drive of the second half stalled with an incompletion at midfield.

Hawthorne continued the scoring deluge for Gilbert with a 13 yard reverse and Kautman converted the 2-point conversion.

Strider’s pass was intercepted by Wirth, but the Creston defense held strong with a three-and-out by Gilbert.

“We made some adjustments second half, but give Gilbert credit, we found a way to win,” Morrison said.

On the following possesssion, Strider was strip sacked and Gilbert recovered.

Hawthorne scored the final Tiger tally of the day with 11:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, and on the following Creston possession, Hawthorne intercepted a Strider pass deep in the Gilbert red zone and returned it for 36 yards.

Gilbert’s fumbled on first play on the ensuing possession and Gannon Greenwalt returned the ball 50 yards for a touchdown. The Panthers recovered their own onside kick. Later in the drive, Strider completed a 20 yard pass to Cael Turner. Will Bolinger caught the pass which successfully converted the 2-point conversion.

“He’s a confident quarterback,” Morrison said. “Our team trusts the quarterback and you could see when we started to get momentum in the fourth quarter, we build on it.” Gilbert recovered the Creston onside, but Turner intercepted a Kautman pass in the endzone with 3:11 remaining in the game.

Strider to Calvin came through once again for a 38 yard completion and Strider was able to punch it in from the Gilbert 5 with 2:30 remaining and the Tiger lead down to 36-34. The 2-point conversion attempt failed because Strider couldn’t get a handle on the snap.

Gilbert again recovered the onside but the Panther defense got Gilbert to go three-and-out.

“I think against a team like Gilbert, I made the mistake of blitzing in the first half and I shouldn’t have,” Morrison said. “We stopped blitzing and we stopped them because we’re a gap zone defense.”

Turner hauled in a 13 yard completion with 51 seconds for the final score of the game, as the 2-point conversion failed.

A key sack as well as an unsportsmanlike conduct on Gilbert sealed the game and the Panthers Bulldog’d (QB Kneel) their way to victory.

The Panthers host the Panthers (Knoxville) Friday for a homecoming matchup. Knoxville is 0-4, and prior to Friday’s 29-28 loss to Fairfield, the Panthers have scored three total touchdowns (all rushing) on the season.

“It feels very good being 4-0 right now, this was a big game for us,” Morrison said. “(Gilbert is a) good football team, we knew they were, I don’t have words right now I’m excited for the kids.”

Creston 40, Gilbert 36

Points by quarter

Creston 7 7 0 26 — 40

Gilbert 7 14 8 7 — 36