PANDORA — Pandora-Gilboa started its football season in a big way. Or at least in a big play sort of way.
With the help of three long distance touchdown plays in the first half, Pandora-Gilboa defeated Columbus Grove 27-14 on Friday night for its first victory over the Bulldogs since 2013 in their traditional season opener.
Junior quarterback Jared Breece threw three touchdown passes, two of them to Travis Maag for scores of 75 yards and 45 yards, for the Rockets.
“We did not play our best ball game, and we still won,” Pandora-Gilboa coach Matt Hershey told his team after the game.
“Our ability to make big plays was fantastic, but we have to be more sound at getting first downs and not rely on the big play. It was eight big plays, touchdown, or four-and-out for us most of the night,” he said. “We have to find a way to be more sound offensively.
“Our seniors really wanted this. They hadn’t beat Grove yet. This was very important to them. I’m hoping because usually if we beat Grove, we have a good season after that.”
P-G built a 27-8 halftime lead, and three of its four scores in the first two quarters came on big plays.
The Rockets got their first score on the fourth play of the game, when Breece found Carter Nofziger for a 38-yard touchdown pass.
A safety, set up by a big hit by Columbus Grove’s Brady Hauenstein, cut the lead to 7-2 with 3:53 left in the first quarter, before Pandora-Gilboa responded with three unanswered touchdowns on plays of 75 yards, 18 yards and 62 yards.
A 75-yard touchdown pass from Breece to Maag made it 14-2 with 11:20 left in the first half.
A 45-yard pass to Maag set up the next touchdown, which came on an 18-yard pass from Breece to Nofziger with 8:19 left in the first half to give the Rockets a 21-2 lead.
Breece ran 62 yards for a touchdown with 4 1/2 minutes left in the half for a 27-2 lead.
Columbus Grove answered with its best drive of the night, with the running game taking center stage. Garrett Nemire had runs of 15 yards and 12 yards, and quarterback Blake Reynolds had a 10-yard run followed by a 6-yard keeper for a touchdown that made it 27-8.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.