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Grinding it out: Panthers dispatch scrappy Generals


Whitmer quarterback Tyler Palka cuts between Anthony Wayne's Hunter Lonseth, left, Todd Bernhard, and Josh Schwerer in last night's Division I playoff game at Whitmer.

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The good news for Anthony Wayne's football team Saturday night was that the Generals' defense played unbeaten, second-ranked Whitmer tougher than any of the Panthers' prior 10 opponents this season.

The bad news was that the visiting Generals' trademark run-dominated wing-T offense managed just 86 total yards and five first downs against Whitmer's vaunted defense in a 20-0 Panthers win in a Division I first-round playoff game.

Whitmer (11-0) racked up 385 yards and 18 first downs, but after an eight-yard touchdown run by All-Ohio senior running back Jody Webb gave the Panthers a 14-0 lead 1:11 into the third quarter, Anthony Wayne (8-3) limited them to six points over the game's final 22:49.

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Webb carried 22 times for 155 yards, and junior quarterback Tyler Palka was 14-of-23 passing for 140 yards, to go with 13 rushes for 63 yards.

"Any playoff victory is a big victory," said Whitmer coach Joe Palka. "You stay alive and play another week. Everybody in the playoffs is a very good football team, as Anthony Wayne showed tonight. We're gracious to get the win and happy to be moving on."

The Panthers, who have outscored foes 503-98 through 11 games, will face a familiar playoff foe in Canton McKinley in a Region 2 semifinal next Saturday at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined.

The Bulldogs (9-2), who advanced by winning at Southview Saturday night, beat host Whitmer 34-13 in a 2009 first-round game and routed the Panthers 49-7 in a Region 2 final at Parma in 2006.

"We played our butts off," said Generals coach Craig Smith. "Our defense played fantastic. We gave them six points for [almost] the last three quarters. I'm proud of our kids. They've got us by about 60-70 pounds a guy. That's probably the closest game they've had all year."

Whitmer's lowest previous point total this season came in a 34-0 win over St. Francis de Sales on Sept. 17. The Panthers' closest game remains their 38-21 victory over Central Catholic eight nights ago.

Whitmer's only second-half points came on field goals of 41 and 38 yards by Michael Baldwin in the third and fourth quarters, respectively. Baldwin's first three-pointer actually bounced on the crossbar before going over with 9:52 left in the third.

"They played well defensively and made some third-down stops," coach Palka said of AW. "We had too many penalties and too many lost red-zone opportunities that we have to correct. But my hat's off to Anthony Wayne. They did a great job.

"We're not going to be sky-high every week. The playoffs are here, and we need a workmanlike effort, and I thought that's what we did. I'm happy with our defense shutting down the wing-T, which is not something that we see every week."

The first time Whitmer had the ball, the Panthers drove 71 yards on six plays, scoring on Palka's 37-yard pass down the left sideline to 6-foot-7, 215-pound wideout Nigel Hayes.

Hayes beat overmatched 6-foot Oso Omofoma, who fell at the 7 as Hayes coasted into the end zone with 7:16 left in the first quarter.

The only turnover of the first half led to Whitmer's second TD, after Nick Holley intercepted a pass from AW quarterback Josh Lindke at the Generals' 40.

Four plays later, Webb ran the eight yards through the middle for the score.

The Panthers outgained the Generals 235-32 in first-half yardage and had a 12-1 edge in first downs.

"The wing-T is a different offense that we'd never seen before," said Whitmer's Michigan-bound, All-Ohio defensive end Chris Wormley. "We needed to have our A-game, stay in our gaps, and be real disciplined.

"We had to help the offense out tonight. We stepped up. We've got to get better each week, and I'm very comfortable with our offense and our defense."

Sam Bruno led AW's trio of running backs with 12 rushes for 41 yards, and Zach Grohowski had 33 yards on 14 attempts, and Aaron Dulay added 25 yards on nine carries. Quarterback Josh Lindke was 0-for-2 passing and was sacked twice for minus-13 yards.

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