High School Football Game of the Week Preview – Reitz vs Paducah Tilghman
After a heart-breaking, loss to their former coach’s new team to open the season last week, the Reitz Panthers look to put their first mark in the win column against visiting Kentucky powerhouse, the Blue Tornadoes of Paducah Tilghman.
After creating five turnovers and leading most of what was a terrific game, the Panther’s found themselves on the losing end of their season-opening match up against Coach Tony Lewis’ Henderson County Colonel’s after a late touchdown put the Colonels up 24-21 with 16 seconds left in the game. Facing a Hail Mary situation from their own 30 yard line with three seconds left to play, a sack by Henderson County on Reitz quarterback Austin Reagan sealed the Panther’s fate.
Friday night’s match up at the Bowl against Paducah Tilghman will be the second match up between the two teams, with the first meeting taking place in 2011 at Papa John’s Stadium in Louisville as part of the annual Bluegrass Classic Invitational. A game which saw Reitz come from behind to win 28-21.
But that was then, and this is now.
With frequent roster turnover due mainly to graduation, it’s difficult for programs to remain strong. However, both Reitz and Tilghman have managed to do so despite the annual loss of key playmakers. Reitz proved that last year after a rough 1-3 start to the season saw them run the table the rest of the way and advance to the Regionals. On the flip side, Tilghman went 8-4 and lost in the in the second round of the Kentucky Class 3A playoffs.
Despite the five turnovers caused by the Panther’s defense, the one glaring hole in last week’s loss to the Colonels was their difficulty in stopping the run. Henderson County, who kept Reitz guessing with a rotating brigade of running backs, ran for 230 total yards against the Panther’s in route to the win.
There’s no doubt that first-year head coach Andy Hape and his staff focused on stopping the run during practice this week as they prepare for the Tornadoes who boast one of the best running backs in western Kentucky in junior, D’Juan Sherrill, who Tornadoes coach, Randy Wyatt says won’t be used exclusively at the running back position.
Defensively, a few names to keep an ear out for when the Tornadoes take the field will be senior defensive end Derik Overstreet, who has already committed to play for Western Kentucky University, and defensive back Darrius Spivey-Nunn, who is also receiving interest from colleges.
It certainly will be a tough task for the Panther’s, but one they can certainly take on. Austin Reagan looked a little shaky in spots during last week’s game with a few over thrown passes to receivers, but showed the ability to put some zip on the ball when necessary, and looked good when forced to throw on the run. Plus it was the first game action he had seen outside of a scrimmage with Mater Dei the previous week, so expect his accuracy and touch to improve as he gets more comfortable in his role as starter.
Dewayne Esters was effective running the ball, picking up 67 yards on 22 attempts, while Jordan Summers hauled in four catches for 65 yards despite facing double coverage all night long from the Colonels. On the opposite side of the field, senior Malik Higgins proved to be a reliable target for Reagan when Summers was covered. While he only hauled in two passes, they both were for touchdowns, and showed that when given the opportunity, Higgins can be a solid number two receiver.
It should be another great game under the lights Friday night and you can hear it all play out on Newstalk 1280 with myself and Jimmie Ford beginning with pregame at 6:30pm and kickoff at 7pm.