LIMA — Never underestimate the power of a good long snapper.
Lima Senior found that out the hard way in its 47-14 loss to Toledo Whitmer in a Three Rivers Athletic Conference affair Friday night.
On its first possession, Lima Senior was forced to punt after three plays netted three yards after starting on its own 11-yard line. Lima Senior punter Cole Mericle went back to punt in his own end zone. The snap, coming from a reserve player, was low, and Mericle failed to handle the loose pigskin. The Panthers pounced on it for the easy score.
This punt would the first of numerous miscues and turnovers that would see Whitmer go from a 13-7 lead to a 47-7 lead by halftime.
Lima Senior coach Andre Griffin said the team had to deal with injuries and illnesses up until game time, and it left his offensive line somewhat shorthanded.
“We made mistakes,” Griffin said. “We were down 13-7 there, and injuries killed us this week and sickness killed us this week. But we have to fight. If we don’t fight, it doesn’t matter. We have to get that back.”
Credit the smothering Whitmer defense for shutting down the Spartan offense as well as producing turnovers that resulted in Panther points. For the game, Whitmer forced four turnovers, including two interceptions, with one going for a touchdown.
On their nine possessions in the first half, the Spartans’ drives resulted in four three-and-outs, two interceptions, one fumble, one safety for Whitmer and one touchdown for Lima Senior.
For the game, Lima Senior would actually out-gain the Panthers in total offense, 271-265, but that was because Whitmer had taken out its first-string players after the first half.
Spartan quarterback Adrine Mitchell, who often found himself scrambling throughout the night, was 11 for 26 for 140 yards and two interceptions. On the ground, Mitchell had 15 carries for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
Like last week, the Spartans’ running game was almost non-existent, as the Panthers limited the Spartans to 131 yards on the ground. More than half of those yards came against Whitmer’s second-team defense in the second half.
In the first half, Lima Senior managed two first downs and 119 total yards. Mitchell was held to 26 yards on the ground and 71 yards through the air.
The Spartans’ lone offensive highlight, which cut the lead to 13-7, came when Mitchell took it in from 6 yards out to cap off a five-play, 80-yard drive with 3:47 left in the first quarter. The big play in the drive would be when Mitchell hooked up with Boppi White for a 65-yard pass play.
But the Spartan score did little to stem the Panthers’ momentum, as they would go on to score 32 unanswered points to finish off the first half.
With the Whitmer defense dominating, the Panthers’ offense rolled up quality yardage against a Lima Senior defense that wore down as the game went on due to being on the field for the majority of the first half.
Whitmer’s standout signal-caller Ryan Keller, who played only one half, was 8 of 17 for 79 yards and one touchdown. On the ground in the first half, Whitmer rushed for 121 yards. For the game, Kyle Myers led the Panthers in rushing with 75 yards on nine carries and one touchdown.
The first Whitmer score came on that botched snap, setting the early tone of the game. The Panthers then went up 13-0 after Lima Senior was forced to punt, and Whitmer promptly drove for its second score when they marched 65 yards in 10 plays for the touchdown.
The Spartans added a meaningless score in the fourth quarter, primarily against the Panthers’ second-team defense.
Jose Nogueras can be reached at 567-242-0468.