Knox, PA - The 2021 Keystone Panther Football team is off to a strong start and has shown they are up for the challenge. Head Coach Ryan Smith now in his 4th season at the helm (16-11) likes the way his team has responded in early play. The Panthers are currently 3-0 at press time as they head into their Friday night contest against Bucktail.
Quarterback Bret Wingard (19-for-54, 295 yards, 4 TDs, 2 Ints.), running back Kyle Nellis (43-223, 1 TD) and receiver Zander McHenry (9-114, 3 TDs) lead the Panthers offense.
The Panthers find themselves at the top of the standings in the D9 Small School South Division thanks to an upset over Redbank Valley at home on opening night. Heading into the contest the Redbank Valley Bulldogs were ranked #5 in the state in “Class A”. More impressive for the Panthers was the fact that they did it all without scoring an offensive touchdown. Two key pick six touchdowns by 5’-10” jr., Kyle Nellis and 5’-9” sr.Steven Shelter proved to be the catalyst for the win which put the Panthers ahead 14-8 going into the half.
The Panthers struggled on the offensive side against Redbank but found a way to win. Defense and Special Teams proved to be the difference maker. With 6:55 left in the contest and down 22-16, Zander McHenry (5’-8” sr.) took the Panther kick return 80 yards to paydirt to put the Panthers up for good.
In week two the Panthers shows some resiliency in a nice come from behind win against Port Allegheny. Kyle Nellis proved to be the difference maker as he hauled in a Bret Wingard pass and took it 80 yards for a touchdown with 2:21 remaining in the contest. Nellis also finished the night with 152 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Zander McHenry and Tyler Albright turned in an active game on defense with a pair of interceptions. The Panthers forced five turnovers for the win. Sr. quarterback Bret Wingard rushed and passed for two touchdowns to help the cause.
Using the first two games as a warm up, Bret Wingard the Panther signal caller, picked up where he left off against Port Allegheny has he threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran for another as the Panthers held Brockway at bay with a 24-6 win. McHenry hauled in two of the touchdowns scoring from 27 and 10 yards respectively. Wingard finished as the Allegheny Grille Player of the Game.
The Panthers are lead on the defensive side of the ball by Aiden Sell and Zander McHenry.
Keystone’s game against Cameron County was cancelled due to Covid.
Looking ahead, the Panthers will face a determined A-C Valley squad in what may be called the Autumn showdown on October 7th. This one will be under the lights at Keystone and will impact the small school south standings and playoffs.
Keystone’s remaining games are as follows: Oct.2nd at Sheffield with a 1;30 Kickoff; October 7th vs. Union-A-C Valley at home; October 15th at Smethport; October 22nd Elk County Catholic at home and on October 29th at Moniteau. All games are at 7:00 pm unless otherwise noted.
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