Brian Pearson & Cheri Azevedo | Williams Pioneer Review
The two top teams in Division 5 of the Northern Section faced off in McArthur on Friday, with second-ranked Maxwell coming up short against top-ranked Fall River in a 35-28 contest between the two undefeated teams.
After opening the contest with 12 unanswered points in the first quarter, turnovers would ultimately prove to be the Panthers’ undoing: Maxwell had five of them, including two interceptions and three lost fumbles. Four of those turnovers led to touchdowns for the Bulldogs.
“They are the best (Division 5) team in the section, and that shows why,” Maxwell head coach Russ Jones said on Monday. “They never folded. Heck, we were up 12-0 at one point. It hurt us when we started having those turnovers — you’re just not going to beat a team like that with 5 turnovers.”
After the Bulldogs found themselves in an early first quarter hole, they answered back in the second quarter with 14 unanswered points. Maxwell tacked on another touchdown and two-point conversion to make the score 20-14 heading into halftime.
The Bulldogs defense came up big after the intermission by shutting out the Panthers and forcing two key fumbles in the third quarter. Fall River’s offense did the rest, turning those turnovers into 14 unanswered points to put them up 28-20 heading into the fourth. The Bulldogs scored once more in the final quarter to complete a 21-0 run, before Maxwell added a touchdown and two point conversion with less than a minute left in the game.
“Defensively, we played pretty well. We gave up two kind of long passes. One was an adjustment issue in secondary. The other was a jump ball with a 6’2” player going against a shorter defender. Statistically, when it was all done, we had better stats than they did. It was painful to see a game like that slip away to the turnover bug,” Jones said.
The Panthers finished with 400 yards of offense to the Bulldogs’ 391, but lost the turnover battle 5-1.
Fall River’s sophomore quarterback, Gavin Dobson, finished 3/8 for 80 yards, including a 47-yard completion to tight end Robee Knoch and touchdown strike to running back Jonathan Iniguez.
Iniguez, Fall River’s 6’0”, 195 lb. workhorse, did most of the damage against the Panthers on the ground, rushing for a season-high 214 yards and on 32 carries. Iniguez finished with two scores on the ground as well. Still, Jones said the long passes were what really shifted the momentum of the game.
“Iniguez was someone we were trying to key on, but we were also worried about a pretty good fullback (in sophomore Jacob Carmenita): We were more focused on stopping the run, (but) it was a couple long passes that were really the dagger for us,” Jones said. “If you’re in secondary, and you face five, six, or seven runs in a row, you can sometimes forget your primary responsibility.”
On offense, the Panthers were paced by senior quarterback Chubby Rangel, who led Maxwell both in rushing and passing. Rangel finished 7/17 for 178 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, and added 102 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
“Chubby did have a good game for the most part this week. It was pretty obvious that part of their game-plan early on was to stack the box and force us to pass,” Jones said. “It was getting to be if you’re going to play press man and have the box stacked, we were going to the throw the ball over the top.”
Running back Isaac Magana and wide receiver Wyatt Perry each hauled in long touchdown passes from Rangel, and were the top two receivers for the Panthers with 59 yards and 51 yards, respectively. Fullback Dylan Jones also hauled in a 33 yard reception as well. As a result of the Bulldogs keying on the Panthers’ rushing attack, Rangel matched his season high in completions and set a new season high for passing attempts.
The Panthers ran the ball a total of 18 times for 221 yards. Magana chipped in 49 yards on 5 carries, while Jones added 41 yards on 5 carries. Jones, playing middle linebacker for Panthers’ defense, led the team in tackles and recorded an interception for Maxwell’s only takeaway.
Maxwell’s junior varsity team handled Fall River 44-8 to start their season 2-0.
Maxwell (2-1) is set to face Etna (0-3) on Friday at home, after opening their season with three games on the road. Etna fell to Quincy last week 38-0. ■