Short-handed Panthers open season with loss

"POULSBO - With only 18 athletes ready to take the field Thursday during Poulsbo Junior High's first football game of the season, Coach Jim Isenhour knew it was going to be a difficult game to win. He proved prophetic, with the Port Angeles Stevens Middle School Riders coming away with a 22-7 victory over the Panthers. But, Isenhour likes the spirit those few athletes showed. The game began ominously for the Panthers, when small, speedy freshman tailback Greg Donnell got the kickoff for Port Angeles. Before many of the parents had even found their seats, Donnell had found the end zone, scooting and weaving more than half the distance of the field to make the score. The point-after attempt failed, and the Riders held a 6-0 lead over Poulsbo. "

“POULSBO – With only 18 athletes ready to take the field Thursday during Poulsbo Junior High’s first football game of the season, Coach Jim Isenhour knew it was going to be a difficult game to win. He proved prophetic, with the Port Angeles Stevens Middle School Riders coming away with a 22-7 victory over the Panthers. But, Isenhour likes the spirit those few athletes showed. The game began ominously for the Panthers, when small, speedy freshman tailback Greg Donnell got the kickoff for Port Angeles. Before many of the parents had even found their seats, Donnell had found the end zone, scooting and weaving more than half the distance of the field to make the score. The point-after attempt failed, and the Riders held a 6-0 lead over Poulsbo. Poulsbo’s first drive began with running plays that went nowhere, and when Port Angeles got the ball back, they managed to score again. It was Donnell who found the end zone. He got the ball on a pitch, sprinted up the left sideline, again weaving his way through traffic, and scored his second touchdown in two touches. This time the two-point conversion was good and the Riders’ lead was two touchdowns wide, 14-0. The teams then traded drives, and those drives resulted in some success for Poulsbo. Quarterback Daniel Peck rolled out for a first down. Both Bobby Thompson and Michael Romero ran for gains. Peck, playing defense, knocked the dangerous Donnell to the ground when Donnell reached the line of scrimmage. And Romero snagged an interception on a Riders drive. But Poulsbo’s offense sputtered, and didn’t score a point in the first half. And Port Angeles struck again in the third quarter when, after a long pass completion, Donnell again scored a touchdown and made it 22-0. Poulsbo’s only touchdown of the game was an impressive one. About halfway through the fourth quarter Port Angeles kicked the ball away, into the hands of a waiting Brian Fabrega. Fabrega ran, found a hole, and kept on running behind his blockers until he reached the end zone, a runback of greater than 60 yards. It was the Panthers’ only score of the game, and the game ended at 22-7. Afterwards, Fabrega, the only Panther to reach the end zone, gave credit to his blockers. I was pretty confident after I saw my teammates blocking good. I couldn’t have made it without them, he said. Fabrega, Coach Isenhour said, is one of the best athletes on the team. He’s probably one of the quickest, fastest athletes on our team, Isenhour said. Hopefully we can get him into the game. It’s his first year, you know – he’s still learning about football. That’s why we have him at split end, not tailback. Isenhour said, I wasn’t really surprised by the outcome, but I was pleased by the effort … for some guys this is their first time in a game. Jamborees aren’t the same because you aren’t under the clock. Some of the players left, Isenhour said, because they didn’t want to practice. But there’s some good talent left, and some more athletes should be eligible soon after completing enough practices. This week, Isenhour said, the team will work on special teams play, especially after Donnell’s back-breaking run to open the game. When you start giving them kickoffs, it puts you at a disadvantage psychologically as well as physically, he said. “