Effort Lacking As Panthers Drop Season Opener At Clay

The Maumee defense takes down a Clay ball carrier. MIRROR PHOTO BY JOE NEGRICH

BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — There are so many different ways to lose a football game.

Sometimes, the opponent is just bigger, faster, stronger and better than a team. In those instances, there’s not much to say or do.

In Cam Coutcher’s eyes, that’s not what happened in a 40-13 loss at Clay last Friday night. Most everyone in the Panthers program would agree – they let a winnable game slip by them.

Instead of facing a superior opponent athletically, Maumee’s effort, drive and emotion were lacking against the Eagles. That’s something that doesn’t sit well with the Panthers coach.

“I told the guys I was really disappointed with their effort at times. There’s no excuse for that,” Coutcher said.

“The effort, that’s a big thing for us. I challenged them on a couple of occasions, ‘You guys are quitting,’ and they just kept doing it. We’ll address it and do some things to correct it and move forward.”

Clay got on the board first with an 18-yard scoring pass around six minutes into the game. At that point, Coutcher felt good about where his team was.

From there, though, things took a decisive downward turn.

Pinned inside their own territory, a bad snap sailed over Maumee punter Chase Maulucci’s head, giving Clay the ball inside the Panthers 10-yard line. Eagles quarterback Jackson Schultz converted another touchdown pass for a quick 13-0 lead.

Later in the first quarter, Schultz found Troy Hazuda on a 43-yard scoring pass and just like that, Clay held a 20-0 lead after the opening quarter.

“I’m thinking, ‘OK, they had to work for that,’” Coutcher said of the first TD. “Then we had a snap over the head on the punt. Some unfortunate things happened in the first quarter that led to some easy points for them.”

The Eagles had another scoring pass in the second quarter for a 27-0 halftime lead, and they added two more TD passes in the third quarter. They totaled 319 yards, including 170 through the air.

Maumee got on the board in the third quarter when senior quarterback Kyle Arndt scrambled for an 8-yard TD run. Arndt finished the game with a team-high 96 rushing yards on 12 attempts, also throwing for 153 yards and a TD on 16-of-23 passing.

“Kyle was hoping for the same sort of holes to be there and Clay had a good game plan against him,” Coutcher said. “They tried to keep him in the pocket and had people there for when he did escape.

“They pulled him down by just his shirt about three or four times. He’s strong enough to break those tackles.

“Kyle started to do better in the second half. He tried to run too much (in the beginning). He had a pocket. It kept getting pushed back, but he could have used some of the techniques we work on and keep his eyes downfield.”

Coutcher said the original game plan was to establish a running game, but the Panthers had to scrap that idea when they went down by three touchdowns, forcing them to throw more than they had wanted.

Maumee felt the loss of two senior linemen on both sides of the ball as Landon Patterson and Preston Johnson both sat out with injuries. Coutcher said their absence was felt in depth and experience, altering the desired lineups and substitutions.

“They’re starters on both sides of the ball,” he said. “It hurts our depth and it hurts our experience because both of those kids started on both sides of the ball last year.”

Sophomore receiver Carson Graetz led Maumee with eight catches for 86 yards and a 15-yard scoring reception in the fourth quarter.

Linebacker Liam Murphy had a team-high five tackles and two sacks.

The Panthers are back in action this Friday when they travel to Bryan, which lost 63-28 to Van Wert last week.

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