The Greenville Panthers (5-2 3-0) won 26-20 Friday night against conference opponent Northwestern College (5-4 3-2) in the Minnenapolis Metrodome.
The Panthers played by far their most complete game of the season, with all sides of the ball executing very well.
The Panthers came out firing, with the denfense forcing a fumble in the first series, setting up the offense with a quick strike to SR TE Zach Friedrich. The rest of the 1st half was back and forth, with both sides finding the endzone again in the 2nd quarter. The Panther's defense forced another fumble with :40 left in the half, setting up a last second touchdown strike again to SR TE Zach Friedrich.
In the second half, the Eagles marched down the field and were able to put up more points, as the Panthers scoring attack stalled. Late in the 4th quarter, with the score at 26-20, the Panthers were stopped on their own goal line, giving the Eagles the ball back with the chance to get the winning score. The Eagles managed to drive down to their own 30 yard line until SR LB Derrick Earl Jr. put a great hit on the Northwestern runningback forcing the ball out and it was recovered by SR DE Cory Bierdman. The Panthers got a few key first downs, and then ran out the clock to seal the victory.
Offensvily the Panthers were led by JR RB Anthony Ambers who had 108 yards rushing on 18 attempts. This is Amber's 3rd game rushing for more than 100 yards. JR RB Esteban Camarillo and SR RB Mark Mitchell both had rushing scores for the Panthers.
JR QB Joel Lira had his best passing game of the season, going 11-13 with 169 yards and a TD. FR QB Marcus Harris shared time with Lira, and finished the game going 2-3 for 49 yards and a TD. The majority of their passes went to the TE's. All-American SR TE Zach Friedrich had 6 catches for 129 yards and 2 TDs. SO TE Rendell Flood had 4 catches for 59 yards.
The Panthers defense was once again led by outstanding SR MLB Garrett Young, who had 14 tackles and 2 sacks in his best performance of the season. SR DE Cory Bierdman had a career game also, finishing with 9 tackles, .5 sacks and .5 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
After the game, both teams came together on the 50 yard line. It was an incredible sight to see, but after such a hard fought game, both teams were hugging and congradulating each other on such a great game. Then the teams gave "put-ups" to each other. A put-up is when someone puts up another player on a great performance, then leads the whole team in a cheer for that player. After this game, both teams did this a little differently. Greenville players only gave put ups for Northwestern, then Northwestern gave put ups for Greenville. It was an amazing thing to witness, and at the end of each cheer, the voices would echo around the dome. Then the teams prayed for each other and wished each other good luck.
Next week the Panthers host the Westminster Bluejays for the conference championship. Greenville and Westminster are the only remaining undefeated teams in the conference. Come out and cheer your Panthers on to their first ever UMAC Championship!