STUTTGART, Germany - The Patch Panthers ensured themselves a playoff berth Saturday with a decisive 31-8 victory over Lakenheath, which struggled to generate any offense against the hard-hitting Panthers.
Key to the victory was a dominant performance by both Patch’s offensive and defensive lines, which opened gaping holes for Panther running backs on offense and limited Lakenheath to just one touchdown in the closing seconds of the contest.
“Offensively, we kept our heads in it today. We were able to spread things and get our passing game going. And then we ran it up the middle,” said senior Patch quarterback Jack Smith, who had 62 yards passing. “We couldn’t have done it without the offensive line.”
Patch asserted itself on offense, not with spectacular big plays, but with steady running and short-gain passes. As a result, the Panthers dominated the time of possession.
Patch, which travels to Vilseck on Saturday to open the playoffs, scored first on a short quarterback sneak by Smith, followed by a two-point conversion by running back Michael Mineni. The Panthers closed out the half with a safety by Patch defender Dylan Stanko.
In the second half, Lakenheath quarterback A.J. Ransom tried to get his team rolling with several passes and scrambles. However, the Patch defense gave him little time to look for open receivers.
“It was a tough game. The line was the difference,” said Ransom, who passed for 166 yards on 9 of 14 passing, including one touchdown toss to receiver Glen Jones. Ransom also ran for 45 yards.
In the third quarter, Patch took complete control of the game on a running attack led by Mineni, who scored on a short touchdown run early in the quarter. Up 17-0, Patch followed that up in the fourth quarter with touchdown runs by Anthony Coltson and Hunter Brashears.
Up 31-0, Lakenheath finally got on the board with Ransom’s last-second touchdown pass, which was followed up with a two-point conversion.
“Normally, we’re a ground and pound team,” said Patch coach Brian Hill. “Today we spread it out more than we normally do.”
The spread offense, utilized throughout the day, forced Lakenheath to honor the pass. That softened things up the middle for Mineni, who ran for 69 yards on 15 carries and Curtis Hobson who ran for 70 yards on 13 carries.
Defensive standouts for Patch included Brayden Lamb, who had 10 tackles, followed by Vince Stefano (eight), Connor Hartzell (seven), and Joe Logan and Stanko with six each.
Lakenheath’s Kyle Capogna led the Lancer defense with nine tackles.