Panthers regroup, stalk first victory
■ Siloam Springs hosts Van Buren on Friday for homecoming.
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.”