BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Whether Maumee should have remained a member of the Northern Lakes League – or if the switch to a new league should have been made prior to the 2023-24 season – can be debated.
One thing that cannot be disputed, though, is the history and tradition the Panthers built as charter members of the league, including one of the area’s best rivalries against Perrysburg, or That Team Across The River.
Last Friday night, that large piece of history came to an end as the Panthers and Yellow Jackets met on the football field for the final time as members of the same league.
For a few minutes before the game, at least, the scores and records didn’t matter, as past and present coaches and players assembled for one last photo with the Ding Dong Bell.
“It was great to see so many former coaches there to support us and celebrate so much history with Perrysburg and the NLL,” said Maumee coach Cam Coutcher.
“Now that I have had time to reflect, it’s really hard to comprehend. Tradition and loyalty are very important to me, and it’s hard to think about moving forward in a different league right now since it’s so fresh.
“We will continue to improve and grow as a program and within the (Northern Buckeye Conference), but those pieces of our history will never be forgotten. We’ll find ways to celebrate that.”
In the first quarter, the Panthers looked as though they would pull out some magic and shock the world with a rivalry win on the road, trailing by only one touchdown. Physical miscues in the form of sacks and turnovers took their toll in the second quarter, though, as Perrysburg pulled away for the 52-21 win.
The game was tied for a time in the first, when Bryson Bonds-Crawford scored on a 65-yard pass from Kyle Arndt. Maumee allowed a rushing score after that, but the scoreboard was a manageable 14-7 after the first.
The Panthers fumbled twice in the second quarter, however, directly leading to two Jackets TDs, and Perrysburg scored 28 unanswered points in the second for a 42-7 halftime lead.
“That’s kind of been the story of our offense,” Coutcher said. “We do so many great things, but we just had a hard time playing a clean game. Turnovers and sacks have killed us this year.
“We aren’t heavily penalized, which shows discipline, but we made too many physical mistakes to overcome. I can live with physical mistakes over mental ones.”
The Panthers showed some resolve in the second half, outscoring Perrysburg 14-13 after halftime on two Arndt-to-Carson Graetz scoring passes. Graetz finished the game with four catches for 122 yards and two TDs.
Along with fellow seniors Dominic Incorvaia, Peyton Wegman, Kristian Kozina, Alex Lewis, Ricky Kieswether, Landen Patterson, Cam Boyd, Augustin Campagna and Preston Johnson, Arndt played his final football game as a Panther.
He threw for 158 yards and three scores and rushed for a team-high 117 yards on 14 rushes.
While Maumee fans should be sad to see a talented and influential senior class graduate, there is definite excitement around the underclassmen in the program.
Players such as Graetz, Bonds-Crawford, Tim Marshall, Jack Lake, Liam Murphy and Cody Wulf will return next year to try and reverse the recent misfortunes of Maumee football.
“The future is very bright for Maumee football and it’s hard not to be excited about it,” Coutcher said. “I look forward to seeing what the future holds.”