Panther senior Noah Gehron lunges for the end zone in Parkway’s 42-20 loss to Anna on Friday night. (Times Bulletin/Pat Agler)
By John Parent
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
ROCKFORD - It certainly wasn't the ideal way to end the season for the Parkway Panthers, who dropped a 42-20 decision to visiting Anna on Friday night, but one senior went out on the highest of high notes.
Anna took control of the game early in the first quarter, using a mammoth offensive line that featured a pair of 300-lbs road graters to open holes for their bruising 240-lbs running back, Christian Williams.
Williams had six carries on the opening drive for the Rockets, which was capped off by an 11-yard pass from Josh Robinson to Ryan Counts. When Parkway took possession following the kickoff, it was Anna's Nathan Arling that made his presence felt. Arling came up with pressure on freshman quarterback Justin Barna, bringing him down for a sack on the second snap of the series and on the very next play Arling stepped in front of a Barna pass and took it back 28 yards for the touchdown.
After a three-and-out by the Panthers, Anna scored again, this time when Robinson hit Carter Bensman on a 10-yard fade pattern.
With three minutes to go in the first quarter, Anna had scored 21 points and Parkway had run six offensive plays and had lost 13 yards.The Panthers would get the ball moving in the right direction on the next possession when Justin Barna found Brant Barna on a crossing pattern and Brant turned it up the sideline, getting a bone-jarring block along the way from Kris Gangwer that brought the home crowd to its feet.
Two plays later, it was sophomore fullback Sage Dugan who took the handoff and raced up the middle of the Anna defense and into the end zone for a 21-yard scoring run.
Unfortunately, that was the last highlight the Panthers would have until the game had been long-decided.
Anna pushed the lead out to 35-7 at halftime, scoring on a 36-yard interception return by Bensman and an 18-yard reception by Williams. On the second play of the third quarter, defensive end Kody Williamson wrestled the ball away from a Parkway ball carrier and took the fumble back for another score.
Dugan busted free for a 33-yard gain early in the fourth quarter, setting up another Panther touchdown. This time it was Barna finding Ryan Lautzenheiser in the corner of the end zone.
The game was well out of hand and the crowd was beginning to thin out with under three minutes to go in the season. The Panthers faced a fourth-and-two at the Anna 20 yard line when head coach Dan Cairnes sent in his senior offensive lineman Noah Gehron, all 340 lbs of him, to play tailback behind fellow lineman Adam Stutz.
Gehron took the handoff and bullied his way down to the 10 yard line. The crowd came alive and Cairnes went ahead and called the same play again.
Gehron bounced off of, through and over Anna defenders and broke the plane of the goal line for the final points of the game.
If there was a way to make a 3-7 season and a lopsided senior night loss feel good, Cairnes found it as suddenly the Panther fans had something to smile about.