MARION — Whitmer faced the Dublin Coffman Shamrocks, and a bad case of Murphy’s Law – “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” – in Friday night’s Division I football playoffs.
The Panthers failed to execute two punts, lost three fumbles, and then lost their marquee player when junior quarterback Riley Keller was lost to an injury in a 43-20 regional semifinal defeat at Marion Harding.
The factor was, Coffman is a solid football team, which nearly doubled Whitmer in total offense, 360-184, in the game.
In a first half full of disastrous plays for Whitmer, the Panthers nearly emerged in decent shape before Coffman cashed in late to take a nine-point lead to the break.
The Shamrocks opened the game by slicing through the Whitmer defense on a 12-play, 65-yard march that was capped on Mike Drennan’s 12-yard touchdown run untouched around the right end.
Joey Mitchell’s extra-point kick missed, and Coffman led 6-0 with 7:16 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers overcame their first mishap, after punter Hunter Hamic dropped the ball before he could attempt his kick. The Shamrocks recovered at the Whitmer 23, but the Panthers defense stood its ground, and Coffman did not cash in.
Whitmer then turned a fortuitous bounce into a 7-6 lead.
On third-and-22, Keller eluded the pass rush, scrambled to his left and fired toward the left sideline. The ball was deflected back to Whitmer receiver Jake Gladieux, who caught the ball and covered the final 20 yards of the 44-yard TD play.
Austin Gibbon’s PAT kick put the Panthers ahead with 1:57 left in the first quarter.
After forcing a Coffman punt, Whitmer had its second special-teams miscue. This time Hamic was unable to secure a low snap, and was downed for an 18-yard loss on the Pangthers’ 14.
Whitmer’s defense limited the damage, holding the Shamrocks to Mitchell’s 25-yard field goal 3:03 into the second quarter.
The Panthers wasted no time responding, when PaSean Wimberly bobbled the ensuing kickoff, retreating to the goal line to scoop up the ball, then bolted 100 yards for a touchdown just 16 seconds later as Whitmer went back ahead 14-9.
The rest of the half belonged to the Shamrocks, who outgained the Panthers 227-84 before the break.
Coffman moved 76 yards on nine plays, scoring on Ethan Brown’s 18-yard pass over the middle to a wide-open Jameel Williamson as the Shamrocks retook the lead 16-14 with 5:32 left in the half.
The game took a horrible turn for Whitmer on the next play, when Keller was blindsided on a sack and fumbled. The Panthers recovered, but Keller did not.
He was helped off the field with an injured right elbow, and Coffman added a TD just before the break for a 23-14 edge.
Moussa Diallo plunged in from the 1 with 24 seconds left in the half.
Whitmer received the second-half kickoff, which went for a touchback and, on the first play from scrimmage, Panthers sophomore backup QB Tommy Colbert lost a fumble.
Coffman capitalized two plays later on a 1-yard sneak by Brown for a 30-14 left just 1:14 into the third quarter.
After the ensuing kickoff, Whitmer started at its 17, and immediately turned the ball over again, this time when Gladieux fumbled on a reverse.
This time, the Shamrocks scored on the very next play, a 12-yard TD run by Drennan, which gave Coffman a 37-14 lead just 21 seconds later.
The Panthers refused to quit, however, as the rushing of Kobe Myers highlighted a 13-play, 65-yard drive. Myers closed that march on a 3-yard TD run with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
But Coffman added another score on Brown’s 2-yard sneak with 7:36 remaining.
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