Panthers give Jones first win
In this week’s Overtime column, we’ll talk to first-year Panther Valley football coach Rick Jones.
Jones, who previously had succesful coaching stints at Pine Grove and Minersville, got his first win at the helm of the Panthers Friday night against Shenandoah.
In addition to the interview with Jones, Overtime will look at a long consecutive points streak at Jim Thorpe, a scoring ‘hat trick’ at Panther Valley, and a couple of other interesting facts and figures from last week.
Jones’ message never changed.
Through five games and five losses — one close, the rest not so close — Jones was consistent with his message to the Panther Valley football team.
Control the things you can — effort, focus, discipline.
Last Friday against Shenandoah, the Panthers were rewarded for buying into Jones’ message, as Panther Valley routed the Blue Devils 35-6 for the first win of the Rick Jones era.
“I’m really happy for the kids,” Jones said. “They’ve worked hard, and it’s nice to get rewarded with positive results when you put in the work.”
Jones said the victory also did wonders for the team’s mindset.
“You can see the attitude of our players has shifted tremendously coming off the win,” Jones said. “As much as we preach to worry about controlling the things you can and not to get too caught up in what the scoreboard says, winning obviously feels good, and our kids are enjoying that feeling.”
Jones joked that his initial reaction might have been more relief than joy after the victory, but he said after celebrating the win with his team, that his thoughts were focused on what’s ahead.
“My philosophy has always been that when the game is over — win or lose — put it behind you and focus on the next game.”
For the Panthers, that means rival Marian.
“The early part of the schedule was rough,” Jones said. “We had some teams like Tamaqua, Jim Thorpe and Lehighton that were tough matchups for us. “But starting with Shenandoah, we are now into the Division 2 part of our schedule and are going to be playing teams we can be competitive with.”
Although it took until Week 6 for Jones’ work to manifest itself into a victory, the Panther coach said he had observed positive changes well before that.
“We wanted to change the culture here, and we are doing that,” Jones said. “Instead of looking to make excuses or to blame someone else when things go wrong, our kids are now taking responsibility. Most of them have bought into it. I’m very pleased with how things have changed over the last few months.”
While the first win provided some immediate gratification for the Panthers, Jones is more excited about the long-term ramifications of what he is seeing.
“The younger kids, in particular, have really bought into what we are preaching,” said Jones. “They worked hard in the offseason, and they are working hard during the season. There is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.”
STREAK CONTINUES ... Jim Thorpe may have lost its first game of the season last Friday, but the Olympians put up 20 points on the scoreboard against North Schuylkill.
When Noah Snisky caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Davier Calcano in the first quarter, it marked the 53rd straight game that Thorpe avoided being shutout.
The last time the Olympians were blanked was by North Schuylkill, 43-0, on Oct. 17, 2014. Thorpe’s 53-game streak is the longest active streak among area teams.
Since 1978, the longest such streak by any Times News team is 68 — also held by Jim Thorpe. That stretch occurred between the 2001 and 2007 seasons. Other teams with 60-plus streaks include Marian (66 from 1979-84), Tamaqua (65, 2010-16) and Northern Lehigh (61, 2007-12).
PANTHER HAT TRICK ... In Panther Valley’s 35-6 victory over Shenandoah Valley last Friday, the Panthers scored touchdowns in a variety of ways.
Besides four rushing TDs, including two from Eric Moyer, PV also threw a scoring pass (Ethan Reis to Shawn Hoben), while Tremaine Ervine returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown.
The last time Panther Valley scored rushing, passing and on a kickoff return was Nov. 2, 2012 (66 games ago) against Minersville. In that contest, Matt Levitt scored on the ground and threw a TD pass to Richard Nase, while Kyle Ferryman returned a kick 91 yards for a TD.
BOYLE FOR THREE ... Tamaqua’s Nate Boyle kicked a 25-yard field goal during Friday’s game against Pottsville.
How rare is a three-pointer by the Blue Raiders?
In its previous 100 games, Tamaqua had kicked a field goal in only four of them. Thorn Devlin did it in two games during the 2015 season, while Lance Williams accomplished it once in 2010 and again in 2011.
Boyle’s was only the second field goal kicked by an area player this season (the other being Jim Thorpe’s Chris Condly). A year ago, there were 10 kicked — seven by Marian’s Lucca Stroia. The last time the TN area produced less than five field goals in a season was 1993, when there were just four.
PASSING FANCY ... Northwestern’s Deven Bollinger threw four more touchdown passes last week against Palmerton to up his season total to 21.
In doing so, he became the first area quarterback to record three seasons of 20-or-more TD passes.
Over the past 35 seasons, the only other area QB to have two seasons of 20-plus touchdown throws was Jim Thorpe’s Corey Cinicola, who had 24 in 2007 and 27 in 2008.
Bollinger, who threw 20 his freshman season and 30 a year ago, now has 83 in his career.
Since 1987, there have only been 14 times an area quarterback has thrown at least 20 TD passes, and Bollinger owns three of those.