BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Evan Karchner was sick of losing. His players were sick of losing. So, the Maumee football team came out and did something about it.
The Panthers scored early and often, beating Lake, 56-21, in a Northern Buckeye Conference matchup on Friday night at Kazmaier Stadium. It marked Maumee’s first conference win as a member of the NBC.
“Any win we can get, that fires our kids up,” Karchner said. “We’ve put a lot of work into this.
“They were ready for the task at hand. They knew we could come out and beat Lake, be physical with them.”
It’s a testament to how far the Maumee football program has come in six short weeks. Heading into this season, the Panthers were mired in a 34-game losing streak. Now, a two-game losing streak was too much to bear.
“When I first came here, I came to win, and we wanted to do a lot of special things,” Karchner said. “We know it’s going to take some time to beat some good teams, but we knew this was a game we should win. They really took that to heart. They rose to the occasion.”
The Panthers had lost two straight games to the cream of the NBC in Oak Harbor (49-14) and Eastwood (49-20). Maumee bounced back in a big way, scoring the most points in a game in 12 years.
“We really needed this,” senior lineman Ramsey Quinn Jr. said. “A bounce-back win always puts a team in good morale. We’re going to make it to playoffs. We’re just those people. We push each other hard in every practice.”
Once again, the Panthers (3-3 overall, 1-2 NBC) hitched a ride on the back of junior running back Cody Wulf, who set a new career-high with 280 rushing yards and four touchdowns. The leading rusher in the NBC, Wulf now has 838 rushing yards this season.
The Panthers totaled 542 yards on offense, with 400 coming on the ground.
“When you see BCSN and they say, ‘Cody Wulf, Cody Wulf,’ it makes you feel good,” Quinn said. “Our offensive line, we love it because we know we’re doing something big.”
Sophomore quarterback Ben Kubicz opened the scoring on Maumee’s first drive of the game, finding Carson Graetz on a 9-yard TD reception. Graetz and Kubicz hooked up on a second TD later in the first half, a 27-yard strike to put Maumee up 35-13.
Kubicz continued to grow as a starter, completing 12-of-17 passes for 142 yards and two scores. Graetz caught nine passes for 115 yards, both season highs.
“Ben is taking strides forward, he still has to get better,” Karchner said. “Ben did a really nice job running our offense and taking a step forward. I’m really excited to see him in the next two years.”
The Flyers (1-5, 0-3) rolled up 296 yards on offense, but only 25 came on the ground. Maumee held them scoreless in the second half.
“This is the second week in a row we showed up in the second half and we responded, we listened to my changes at halftime,” Karchner said. “We were ready to go. That’s something we can take a step forward with.”
The Panthers also had their first defensive touchdown of the season, a 55-yard fumble return for a score by Robert Burlew. Tristen Dotson also came up with a clutch interception that stopped a Lake drive around midfield.
“That’s a huge momentum shift,” Karchner said of the fumble return. “When we had turnovers or went four-and-out, I always talked to our guys about sudden-change stops.
“That was something we had struggled with. We throw picks, we let teams go down and score. We rose to the occasion multiple times.”
Karchner, who also serves as the team’s defensive coordinator, admitted he had gotten passive over the last couple of weeks. He made sure that would change this week.
“I told myself I’m tired of playing scared,” Karchner said. “We put in some pressures this week and they hit. We were getting pressure on the quarterback, which was good to see.”
The Panthers will try to make it two straight when they travel to Genoa (5-1, 3-0 NBC) on Friday night.