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PAXTON — Rushing for 250 yards on 17 carries and recording three sacks and an interception can be exhausting work.
Paxton-Buckley-Loda junior running back Drew Schrodt is no exception to that rule.
Therefore, after his pick of a halfback pass attempt from El Paso-Gridley’s Preston Hayes, Schrodt needed some rest and help from the sidelines.
He got the latter from an unexpected source — the Panthers’ mascot.
“He was trying to give me my inhaler,” Schrodt said. “I have a little asthma. I was cramping pretty bad.”
Thanks in large part to Schrodt’s breathtaking performance, the Panthers are now halfway toward their win total from last year.
Schrodt scored three touchdowns to lead PBL to a 28-14 victory over EPG.
“Overall, it’s just a great win,” PBL head coach Jeff Graham said. “We must cherish every win. We’re going to celebrate this tonight. Our kids are awesome. They work hard, and they’re just great kids.”
On the Panthers’ second possession of the game, Schrodt found a hole offtackle and broke free along the right sideline. The a 52-yard touchdown run with 6:44 left in the first quarter for PBL’s first score.
With sophomore placekicker Jonah Wilson tacking on the extra point, the Panthers led 7-0.
With 5:44 remaining in the second quarter, Schrodt once again found daylight along the right hashmarks. He scampered 41 yards for his second touchdown to increase the Panthers’ lead to 14-0.
Schrodt finished the first half with 146 yards on 12 carries. He said he credits his long touchdown runs to his offensive line.
“The blocking was so good tonight,” Schrodt said. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. It all starts up front.”
He saved his best touchdown run for last, scoring No. 3 on an 86-yard scamper with 9:14 left in the third quarter to give PBL a 21-0 lead.
This time around, he found a hole on the left side and ran along the left sideline before cutting to the middle of the field to avoid a defender.
Like Schrodt, Graham said he credits junior tight end Trey Pound junior tackles Jordan McCreary and Cory Smith and junior fullback Will Boman for their blocking on Schrodt’s runs.
“Those edges out there (were wide open),” Graham said. “(The offensive line) opened up some holes up for Schrodt, and Drew ran the ball hard. It was a team effort, and that’s what I’m proud of.”
Defensively, the Panthers held the Titans to a shutout in the first three quarters. They sacked EPG quarterback Bodee Schlipf five times in the first half.
Schrodt got the sack party started on the Titans’ opening possession, catching Schlipf from behind on third down. Schrodt finished the game with three sacks and eight tackles while Trent Wooten recorded nine tackles.
“I think our defense stepped up,” Graham said. “These coaches had them prepared defensively. Our kids played hard. Vaughn Gentzler and Wil McClure — man, I thought they stepped up. Schrodt and Wooten were absolutely relentless out there. They were coming off that edge and putting on pressure all night long. It was a total team effort. I know I haven’t mentioned everybody, but it was a total team effort, and I’m proud of these boys.”
The Titans had some chances to score in the first quarter.
On its second possession of the game, EPG brought the ball to PBL’s 16-yard line. A run for a one-yard loss and a couple of Titans penalties later, the junior Gentzler thwarted the drive with a sack after Schlipf was forced to handle an erroneous snap.
On the Panthers’ ensuing possession, which started on their own six-yard line, they went three-and-out. Brady McWilliams returned the punt into red-zone territory for EPG.
The Titans, again, could not push the ball into the end zone. On fourth down, Wooten tackled Payton Hayes short of the first-down marker.
The Panthers held EPG to a total of 58 yards rushing.
Titans coach Steve Rigsby said his team could not get the ground game going because of a lack of experience on his offensive line.
“There was definitely some growing pains up front tonight,” Rigsby said. “They brought a lot of people. We had a hard time blocking them. We need to be able to effectively throw the ball to move the ball at this point. Certainly, there’s some work to do up front.”
A bad snap on an EPG punt set up PBL for another chance to score in the fourth quarter, with the ball on the three-yard line.
On third down, junior quarterback Weston Weber connected with Wooten for a two-yard touchdown pass along the right sideline. The score increased the Panthers’ lead to 28-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, however, Micah Nicolay scored a touchdown to put the Titans on the scoreboard with 7:41 remaining in the game.
After a Weber interception, EPG scored again when Schlipf connected with Nicolay for a 14-yard touchdown.
Jesse Houtzel recovered the ensuing onside kick for PBL to stop the bleeding with 1:09 remaining.
Despite the garbage-time scores, Rigsby said he was impressed with how much the Panthers have improved from last year, when EPG beat them 55-7 in a Week 5 contest in El Paso.
“I thought they were a very competitive team,” Rigsby said. “I know they’ve got a pretty difficult schedule coming up. I know they’re going to have their work cut out for them. They’re definitely an improved them. We expected that, and they definitely showed that tonight. They outexectued us most of the game.”