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Panthers Claw Past Hawks 36-29 In Opener

Photo: Karina Serio

On a night where turnovers and penalties kept tripping up the Panthers, the legs of Zach Ayers carried Perryville to a 36-29 victory against visiting North Harford in their season-opener. The senior all-purpose running back, wide receiver, defensive back, kicker, and punter had a huge night for the Panthers.

As if an offensive touchdown and interception returned for a touchdown wasn’t enough, Ayers scooped up a botched snap on an extra point and ran it in, converted a fake punt for a first down, kicked all the extra points for the evening, did the punting and on two remarkable plays ran down breakaway Hawk players, who had 20-yard leads, to stop touchdowns – one resulting in a turnover.

“Zach is Mr. Do Everything for us,” said Head Coach Sean Sandora about Ayers, “He really did a good job over the summer preparing his body to never come off the field.”

The Panthers opened a 22-0 lead early on their home turf, but a series of turnovers, personal fouls and unsportsmanlike penalties proved costly as North Harford closed the gap late in the second quarter and went into halftime down 22-14.

The Hawks evened the score early in the 3rd quarter on a 52-yard touchdown run by Kent Holcombe on 4th-and-two. Holcombe almost took down Perryville Friday night with several lengthy returns that gave North Harford premium field position to start drives.

It was Ayers’ pick 6 that broke the game open in the third quarter for the Panthers. Perryville followed that up with a running touchdown from Ethen Gunter to give the home team a 14-point lead and put the game out of reach for the Hawks. Gunter had 20 carries on the night for 166 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns. Ayers had five carries for 46 yards, two receptions for 20 yards and was 5-for-5 in PATs. Kyle Richards added two receptions for the Panthers for 61 yards and a touchdown catch. Quarterback Rob Siek tossed two touchdowns and threw two interceptions on the night.

For Perryville defensively, Sydney Phillips led the team with nine tackles, Ayers had five tackles and Cy McCall and Kyle Huth accounted for four tackles each. Huth and Ayers each had interceptions for the Panthers.

Perryville next faces Joppatowne this Friday night at home at 7 p.m. in a matchup of teams who started winning their season openers.

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