Usually we would agree that if Haven finds itself on the wrong side of a 41-13 score that it would constitute a bad night. But this week we would say “au contraire” as we were very impressed with the Panther effort against the undefeated Central League favorite. For three quarters Haven was able to keep within striking distance of the Cougars. Through a great combination of running and passing plays the Panthers racked up 236 yards (94 passing) and controlled the ball for 26 minutes (vs. 21 minutes for the Cougars). It was an excellent outing (other than the score) and should give Haven the confidence that they can play with anyone in this league.
That being said, their next opponent is the one team in the league that may be playing even better than Springfield. The Garnet Valley Jaguars may have “struggled” last week with three turnovers and 60 yards in penalties but they still overwhelmed Penncrest 28-7. They beat Ridley 28-14 and Upper Darby 22-14. The Jaguars seem to like to keep their opponents in the game but manage to play strong enough defense with enough offense to win out. They are a well-balanced team equally effective at running and throwing the ball. The defense bends easily at times but stiffens up as an opponent advances and then finds a way to shut it down before points are scored. They carry a 100 man roster and are one of the few high school teams who can field a full platoon of players at both offense and defense. There is a reason that close games have gone the Jaguars way more often than not. It can be a huge advantage when you have fresh, rested athletes playing against athletes that have played almost every down. By the time the fourth quarter arrives winning a game can be simply a matter of who has more energy left to play.
Haven has impressively changed their game. They have shown a real passing threat and a willingness to use it. Springfield attempted to play the box but defensive backs and linebackers found themselves backing up further and further from the box as they felt they had to cover the pass threat. Front line blocking has been very good with the Panthers beating their opponents on the snap and creating holes and seams for a strong group of running backs.
To be sure the Panthers worst enemy has been themselves. Fumbles, interceptions and penalties have cost them the advantage in both their losses this year but these are correctible issues. We think the Panthers can make a playoff run if they continue to improve. All the elements are in place for a good year. The Jaguars will be a challenge but if Haven can play solid, mistake-free, football they could pull a victory out this Friday night.
Kick-off is at 7:30 PM at the George L. King Field. The game is also a tribute to the late Jack Hontz, band director at SHHS. We expect a very large crowd so get there early if you can. We will be broadcasting our 2008 interview with Mr. Hontz as our contribution to the tribute. If you can’t make the game you can always listen to our broadcast right here at Havenfootball.net. Our broadcast will begin at 7:15. The game will be available on our archives within a few hours after the game concludes. You can also check in on Twitter for score updates.