West Marshall wears down Panthers, 55-30

STATE CENTER – West Marshall’s Week 1 rout over Waterloo Columbus felt more like a walkthrough.

A week after the 50-point thrashing, the Trojan starters needed some time to get back up to speed.

Picking up its play on both sides of the ball after a sluggish first half, Class 2A No. 3 West Marshall pulled away for a 55-30 victory over Panorama in non-district play Friday.

Duncan Ferch picked up where he left off from a week ago, rushing for 170 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries, while also returning a fumble for a score, intercepting a pass and returning a kickoff 94 yards.

“Last Friday was a lot different – we didn’t play as much,” said Ferch of the Trojan starters in Week 1. “This week (Panorama) was a much better team so we were a little tired. At the half we started playing more our style of football.”

Ferch’s 94-yard kickoff return and one-yard yard touchdown plunge two plays later gave the Trojans (2-0) a 28-17 lead with 16 seconds left in the second quarter. The quick strike reclaimed momentum for the home team after the Panthers rattled off 14 unanswered points to pull within four.

Gavin Richey called his own number from two yards out with 2:35 left in the half and less than 90 seconds later, Alex Llanes returned a Matt Van Metre fumble 40 yards to the house to put West Marshall on its heels.

After Ferch’s third touchdown gave West Marshall some cushion heading into the locker room, the senior and his teammates carried the surge into the second half.

After forcing a quick punt, the Trojans extended their advantage as Ferch rumbled in from two yards out with 8:15 to go in the third. Ferch intercepted Richey on the ensuing play before adding a 9-yard run to stretch the lead to 42-17 less than five minutes in.

“In the first half we just did a lot of things to shoot ourselves in the foot,” West Marshall coach Ken Winkler said. “We had a lot of penalties, we turned the ball over and we didn’t cover people very well. In the second half we didn’t have as many penalties, didn’t turn the ball over and we covered people a little bit better.”

West Marshall was penalized eight times for 65 yards in the first 24 minutes, but committed just three for 30 yards after halftime.

After Richey added a 6-yard TD run to close the gap to 42-24 with 5:26 remaining in the third, Devin Chesler ended the rally effort with a 4-yard touchdown run late in the third. Chesler added another from a yard out midway through the fourth and finished with 164 yards and three scores on 15 carries – earning 131 of the yards in the second half.

The West Marshall 1-2 punch proved too much for the Panther defense, which wore down after the half.

“I think people underestimate the abilities of Devin. He’s a good running back and a good football player,” Winkler said. “Because of Duncan, I think sometimes they underestimate (Devin’s) abilities, but he’s a really good football player.”

Panorama (1-1) forced a quick three-and-out to open the game and took over at the Trojans’ 19 after a 6-yard shank punt. West Marshall’s first three plays all resulted in negative yards though their defense stiffened and held the Panthers to a field goal.

Ferch gave West Marshall its first lead with a 40-yard burst down the left sideline midway through the first and he closed the quarter with a 40-yard fumble return to give the Trojans a 14-3 lead. Chesler punched in a one-yard score with 4:01 left in the half, before the Panthers pounced.

West Marshall had a rebuttal to close the quarter and convincing closing argument in the second half.

“In the second half we stood up when we had to on third down and we didn’t do that very well in the first half,” Winkler said.

Richey, who completed 10 of 12 passes in the first half, connected on just 5 of 13 throws in the final 24 minutes and was picked off once. He finished 15-of-25 for 208 yards and two rushing touchdowns, while Panther backup Chase Hennen added a 49-yard touchdown run late to cap the scoring. Van Metre completed three of his seven passes for 34 yards

West Marshall faces PCM on the road Friday at 7:30 p.m.