Pan­thers re­group, stalk first vic­tory

■ Siloam Springs hosts Van Buren on Fri­day for home­com­ing.

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - SPORTS - By Gra­ham Thomas Staff Writer gth­omas@nwadg.com ■

Siloam Springs head coach Bryan Ross was caught off guard with the re­sults of last week’s foot­ball game at Har­ri­son.

The Goblins scored touch­downs on their first seven pos­ses­sions of the foot­ball game and clob­bered the Pan­thers 48-12 in a mercy-rule vic­tory at F.S. Gar­ri­son Sta­dium in Har­ri­son.

“I hon­estly didn’t see that com­ing,” Ross said Mon­day. “I thought we had a cou­ple of pretty good days of prac­tice in the mid­dle of the week. Cer­tainly, we ex­pected to play bet­ter than that. If you play well and come up short, you can live with that. Fri­day night was hard be­cause I re­ally ex­pected us to play bet­ter than that.”

The Pan­thers (0-2) will get an­other shot at their first vic­tory Fri­day night when they host Class 7A Van Buren for home­com­ing at Pan­ther Sta­dium.

The Point­ers (0-2) are also in search of their first win. Van Buren lost the an­nual Bat­tle of the Bone ri­valry game at home

against Alma 21-14 on Aug. 29. The Point­ers then dropped a 4128 loss at Fort Smith North­side last week.

The Pan­thers and Point­ers have played each other each of the last five sea­sons, with Van Buren hav­ing won three of the five, in­clud­ing a 25-18 vic­tory at Blake­more Field in Van Buren last year. It was the home team’s first vic­tory so far in the se­ries be­tween the two schools as Van Buren won at Siloam Springs in 2012 and 2014, while Siloam Springs won at Van Buren in 2013 and 2015.

“It’s usu­ally a good matchup,” Ross said.

Last year’s loss at Van Buren was a tough one to swal­low for the Pan­thers. Af­ter a near

two-hour rain de­lay, the Pan­thers led the Point­ers 18-10 in the fourth quar­ter, only to watch the Point­ers get two touch­down runs from Wal­ter Green to take the lead. Van Buren sealed the game with a late in­ter­cep­tion.

Green, who had 122 rush­ing yards on 11 car­ries in last year’s game, is back for his se­nior year along with quar­ter­back Caleb Sal­is­bury, who had 63 rush­ing yards on 15 car­ries a year ago.

“They’ve got a cou­ple of good of­fen­sive play­ers,” Ross said. “The quar­ter­back and run­ning back are good ath­letes. The run­ning back (Green), of course, helped beat us last year in the last few min­utes of the game. The quar­ter­back’s a good ath­lete. He can ex­tend plays and make plays down the field.”

Ross said the Pan­thers have to shore up de­fen­sively this week af­ter giv­ing up 540 yards to Har­ri­son, in­clud­ing 332 on the ground.

“Our big con­cern is de­fen­sively be­ing able to get peo­ple off the field,” Ross said. “The other night I guess (Har­ri­son) scored the first seven times they had the ball. Against Rogers we showed glimpses, but we’ve just got to im­prove there. We’ve got to be more phys­i­cal. I did not think that we were any­where close to be­ing as phys­i­cal as we needed to be against Har­ri­son.”

Of­fen­sively, mean­while, the Pan­thers strug­gled to get into a rhythm. Af­ter to­tal­ing 450 yards of of­fense in a 34-33 loss to Rogers in Week 1, the Pan­thers slumped to just 171 yards against the Goblins.

Siloam Springs had an early touch­down called back be­cause of an in­el­i­gi­ble man down field, and it never got any bet­ter. By the time Kaiden Thrailkill found the end zone in the sec­ond quar­ter for the Pan­thers’ first score, they were al­ready four touch­downs be­hind at 28-0.

“We just couldn’t get in rhythm,” Ross said. “We had a cou­ple of bad se­ries that we went three-and-out. By the time we kind of got back on track, it was al­ready 28-0.

It takes you out of what you want to do, what you like to do. It’s hard when you’re play­ing up hill like that. If we get the first touch­down, re­cover the fum­ble, maybe it’s a dif­fer­ent story. I don’t know. If we go to half­time and it’s 28-14, maybe it’s still doable. It snow­balled on us, got away from us, and then you’re ba­si­cally grab­bing at straws af­ter that.”

Ross said the Pan­thers have to fo­cus on im­prov­ing them­selves this week.

“I think that’s a mind­set that we’ve been try­ing to in­still in our kids,” he said. “It’s steady im­prove­ment. Frankly, I think last week was a step back. We can’t af­ford to do that. We’ve got to keep go­ing for­ward, and hope­fully we’ll get back on track this week.”

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