Pandora-Gilboa faces familiar foe McComb next in football playoffs

By Jose Nogueras -

PANDORA — Down nine in the third quarter against Mohawk in the first round of the playoffs, Pandora-Gilboa was facing an early exit from the postseason. However, the Rockets rallied for 13 unanswered points to collect the 19-15 victory.

The Rockets will need this type of resiliency and more consistency when they face familiar foe, McComb, a fellow Blanchard Valley Conference opponent, in the second round of the playoffs at Napoleon’s Charles Buckenmeyer Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Pandora-Gilboa head coach Matt Hershey said the win was big and he was impressed by his team’s ability to respond to adversity but he is hoping victory is a springboard to future postseason wins.

“We can’t be satisfied or happy with where we are at,” Hershey said. “After the season is over we will look back and be extremely grateful and happy with the victory but we want to continue with playing. When my players are my age they can look back but right now we have to focus on McComb.”

In week nine, McComb jumped out to an early 13-0 lead in the first quarter en route to a 49-27 victory over the Rockets. Against the Panthers, the Rockets were held to 174 total yards and Jared Breece completed 9 of 25 pass attempts for 83 yards with an interception.

Hershey said playing a team already this season is a blessing and a curse.

“I guess the advantages for both teams is that we know what they are going to do and they know what we are going to do,” Hershey said. “The disadvantages is that, at least for us, is that they have beaten us quite a few times now and sometime that mentality sinks in.”

Hershey added the players have to mentally put the past behind them and focus on Friday, and the coaching staff and team will be reviewing the week nine films to see how they can fix some of the things that went wrong against the Panthers.

In the game against the Panthers, the Panthers rushed for 316 yards with Clay Santos leading the way with 165 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns.

During the regular season, McComb gave up an average of 206.4 total yards on defense and averaged 356 yards on offense. Kheagan Loe led the Panthers in rushing with 712 yards and 11 touchdowns.

One area Hershey said that is still a work in progress is the team’s consistency.

In its opening round playoff game, McComb handled another fellow BVC team, Leipsic, 21-0. The Panthers held Leipsic to 175 total yards on offense.

“When we have played well we have been able to move the ball offensively consistently even in the red zone. Likewise defensively we have been consistent on getting teams off the field on third down,” Hershey said. “When we have struggled our offense has struggled and we have relied on the big explosive play and then defensively we give up a ton of third down conversions. If we can be consistent in those areas we will be successful.”

If there is one thing that is going for Pandora-Gilboa is the team’s attitude. Hershey said with the way the team finished the season against Cory-Rawson coupled with the support of the community, the players are pumped up to continue their playoff journey.

“I think the mood is back,” Hershey said. “The week 10 win over Cory-Rawson got the excitement back and then obviously the playoff games with the atmosphere and the crowds coming out and giving us great support. Football is a long season and we hit our snag but our players are geared up, and it is exciting. You can go anywhere and people are talking about the Pandora-Gilboa Rockets.”

By Jose Nogueras

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