Dan DeFrancesco saw a dramatic finish to one of the section’s only intradistrict rivalries. Here’s his story:
SHRUB OAK — Panas senior quarterback Liam Hagens rushed for a 3-yard touchdown on fourth down with 38 seconds left to give the Panthers a 34-27 win at Lakeland Friday.
“I was a little nervous at first,” Hagens said of the decision to go for the touchdown as opposed to kicking the field goal. “As soon as I got the ball I just saw the wide-open hole from (center) Eric Reyes and I just went right in.”
Hagens finished the game with three rushing touchdowns, all coming in goal-line situations, in addition to a touchdown pass.
“(Hagens) is a smart-headed kid; he’s a tough kid,” Panas coach Daniel Patronik said. “He’ll never give up. He always gives me his best.”
Panas’ John Brophy opened up the scoring when he punched in a touchdown from the 1-yard line with 2:49 remaining in the first quarter to give the Panthers a 6-0 lead.
The Hornets’ Brian Prunty scrambled to his right and found Kevin Petriccione for a 58-yard touchdown pass. Ryan Thomas’ point after gave Lakeland a 7-6 lead with 53 seconds left in the first.
Hagens capped a 35-yard drive for Panas with a quarterback keeper from the 1 for a score. Timothy McCauley kicked the point after to give Panas a 13-7 lead with 4:22 remaining in the half.
Hagens found Mason on a 23-yard pass for a touchdown right before the half thatpushed the Panthers’ lead to 20-7 at halftime.
Lakeland scored two straight touchdowns on Prunty passes, to Petriccione and Greg Lenane, to open the second half. The Hornets converted one of the PATs and the teams were tied at 20-20 with 10:47 left.
Panas drove the ball 70 yards on 14 plays following the Hornets’ second straight touchdown. Hagens finished the drive with a quarterback keeper for a touchdown with 3:52 remaining. A McCauley PAT made it 27-20.
Lakeland’s Jimmy Flaherty reeled off a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown just 16 seconds later to tie the score at 27-27.
Panas then drove 65 yards to set up Hagens’ game-winning TD.
“We had some good responses in the second half to what they were doing,” Patronik said. “When they scored on a big play we took the ball, drove it down and pounded it out. That’s what our philosophy is.”