Cheri Azevedo | Williams Pioneer Review
Friday night marked the first full-contact action for Maxwell’s football team since the 2015-16 season, as the Panthers opened their season with a match-up against the Woodland Christian Cardinals.
It was the first time that the two football programs have ever faced off, and while Maxwell would win the game by a comfortable 44-27 margin, the Panthers were challenged early by the unfamiliar foe.
Maxwell’s 2016-17 season couldn’t have started off in much rockier fashion: The Cardinals returned the opening kickoff to jump out to an 8-0 lead, capitalizing on miscues by the Panthers kickoff coverage team. The miscues on special teams didn’t end there for the Panthers, who allowed another touchdown on a kickoff return in the first half.
The Panthers were down 15-14 at one point in the second quarter, and went into the half tied at 21-21 with the Cardinals.
“First quarter we had a couple miscues. Our special teams would have to get better, (as) they scored on us twice from kick returns,” wide receiver Donnie Manson said. “We just had to get our first game jitters out.”
After halftime, the Panthers players got their jitters under control, and the Panthers coaching staff made a few changes.
“The coaching staff recognized right away we had to make some adjustments”, says Coach Jones.
The result? A 23-0 run for the Panthers that nearly spanned the entire second half. Down 44-21, the Cardinals finally scored to break the second-half shutout, but did so with only a minute remaining in the game.
After being burned by the Cardinals twice in the first half, Maxwell’s special teams returned the favor in the third quarter when Isaac Magana ran a kickoff back for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Magana put on a strong showing for the Panthers offensive and defensive units as well. Magana finished with two touchdowns on offense. On defense, Magana snagged a key interception in the third quarter.
“I had chills tonight as it’s the beginning of my last season for the Panthers. We had a rough first half… (but) the halftime talk from our coaches pumped us up,” Magana said after the game. “Our offense was on point, and on defense (Dylan) Jones and (Conner) Lovelace were beasts.”
A three year varsity starter and regular contributor on both sides of the ball as a sophomore and junior, Jones finished the game with two rushing touchdowns and led the defense in tackles.
The Maxwell Panthers football team has an away non-league game at Foresthill High School on Friday, September 9 at 7 PM.