The Parsons Riverside Panthers spoiled the dream for the Huntingdon Mustangs to reach the state championship game for the first time since 2012 with a 26-13 win over the Mustangs. The Panthers used a punishing ground game that propelled them to a 14-0 lead at the half and forced the Mustangs to battle from behind and the Panther defense shut down a Mustang offense that had scored 112 points in their first three playoff games.
The Panthers rushed for 154 yards in the first half and continued to hand the ball to junior running back Desmond Thomas who ended the game with 234 yards on 43 carries. The Panthers as a team only had 50 rushing attempts from scrimmage as Thomas carried the bulk of the workload for the Panthers. The Mustangs saw Riverside rush for 154 yards in the first half but held them to only 73 in the second half but could never get their offense going and Riverside used some timely passes to covert a couple of third down plays to crush the Mustang hopes.
The Mustangs fell behind 7-0 in the September 9 matchup with the Panthers but came back and won the game 33-7, fell behind once again Friday night as the Panthers took the opening kickoff and marched down the field behind Thomas who carried the ball eight times on the ten-play drive to reach the end zone. The final carry for Thomas on the drive resulted in a one-yard touchdown run. Cole Yarbro tacked on the point after and the Panthers led 7-0.
The Panthers then held the Mustangs for a three and out and got the ball back with 5:32 left in the first quarter and proceeded to use up all of that time for another touchdown drive. The Panthers had the ball for 9 minutes and 48 seconds of the first quarter and finished the quarter at the Mustang 12 as the first quarter ended after starting from their 31. The Panthers scored on the first play of the second quarter on a 12-yard pass from Ethan Quinn to Jagger Cupples. Thomas carried 12 times on the drive for the Panthers. Yarbro again was good on the point after and the Panthers led 14-0.
The Mustangs got a 30 plus kickoff return from Brady Warbritton to the Panther 45 and the Mustangs moved down the field to the Panther 9 but a holding call backed them up and a fourth down pass by Gray Eubanks fell incomplete and the Mustangs missed a scoring chance and after both team would punt the half ended with the Panthers leading 14-0.
The Mustangs started the second half with the football but were unable to get a first down and punted but the defense held Riverside and a combination of Warbritton and Aden Hilliard resulted in the Mustangs first points of the night. Warbritton fielded the punt around the Mustang 40 and ran down the Panther sideline across midfield before the ball was knocked loose and Hilliard scooped up the loose football at the Panther 20 and ran it the rest of the way for a Mustang touchdown with 7:46 left in the third. Cole Chafin added the point after and the score stood at 14-7.
The Mustang defense again held the Panthers and forced a punt but the Mustang offense could not get going and punted the ball back to the Panther 42. The Panthers covered the 58 yards in six plays and scored on a four-yard run by Thomas with 52 second left in the third quarter. The point after was missed and the score went to 20-7.
The Mustangs answered with a 67-yard drive to the end zone in ten plays and scored on a 12-yard run by Warbritton. The extra point was missed and the Mustangs trailed 20-13 with 7:50 left in the game.
Riverside started its next possession at its 41 and moved the ball to the Mustang 35 and faced a fourth down and five from that point and the Mustangs hoping for a stop and a chance to get the ball back with a chance to tie. Quinn, however, found William Wallace open for 12-yards and a first down. The Panthers eventually scored with 1:33 left on a one-yard run by Thomas and after a missed extra point would have a 26-13 victory and a berth in the title game.
The Mustangs who ended their season with a 10-3 record finished the game with 112 yards rushing and 12 yards through the air. Ashton Hutcherson led the Mustangs with 47 yards for the night.