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Overpowering: Whitmer's defense, run game roll through TRAC foe St. John's

Whitmer's defense, run game roll through TRAC foe St. John's

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Whitmer running back Jody Webb rushed for 209 yards on 15 carries. He took the Panthers' first carry of the game and rumbled 85 yards for a touchdown to give Whitmer an early lead over St. John's.

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In a midseason showdown for football supremacy in the new Three Rivers Athletic Conference, Whitmer stole the show Friday night with a convincing 35-7 victory over an overwhelmed St. John's Jesuit before a crowd of more than 7,000 at Whitmer's Memorial Stadium.

"The thing I like is that it was on a big stage," Whitmer coach Joe Palka said when asked if this was a "statement game" for his Panthers. "Everybody was here. In a big arena, big players are going to come up big. I thought we did that tonight."

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A sign of things to come took place on the Panthers' first play from scrimmage. Senior running back Jody Webb (15 carries, 209 yards) dashed around left end and bolted 85 yards for the first of his team's four first-half touchdowns just 23 seconds into the game.

"A game like this is all about momentum, so we had to get it pushing early," said Webb, a first-team All-Ohioan in 2010. "We didn't want to wait because it could have been a close game and would've come down to the fourth quarter. We had to get it done early."

Webb later added TDs on a nine-yard pass reception and a 59-yard run.

"They pinned us deep [on opening kickoff], so that play was just huge," Palka said of Webb's first TD. "It not only got us out of a hole, it put us on the board, and it gave our crowd, and our kids, momentum. That play's as big as it gets."

Pouncing on the Titans, fourth-ranked Whitmer (5-0, 2-0 TRAC) added its second TD just 3:09 later, when LeRoy Alexander scored on a 19-yard run with 8:28 left in the first quarter.

Perhaps shell-shocked, 11th-ranked St. John's (4-1, 1-1) was steamrolled by the Panthers in the first half, which ended with the Titans down 28-0.

After Whitmer senior backup quarterback Tyler Smith added a touchdown on a five-yard run early in the second quarter and hit Webb on the nine-yard TD play 7:43 before halftime, the Panthers wound up with a startling 299 to minus-8 first-half edge in total offense.

For the game, Whitmer outgained the Titans 438-164.

"We were like a deer in the headlights in the first half," St. John's coach Doug Pearson said. "Fortunately we showed a little character in the second half and put a couple drives together.

"We're still a work in progress and it's a long season. The same thing happened to us [49-24 City League loss at Whitmer] last year, and we went on to have a pretty good season. We're going back to the drawing board and work extremely hard."

St. John's standout junior quarterback Brogan Roback, who passed for 25 TDs last season and nine more in the first four games (715 yards) this year, scrambled for his life in the opening half.

Sacked three times in the first half for losses totaling 17 yards, he completed just 4-of-13 passes for 12 yards before the break. He ended 11-of-25 for 113 yards. Titan senior running back Kent Kern was held to 38 yards on 14 rushes.

University of Michigan-bound, 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive end Chris Wormley sacked Roback for losses of 7 and 5 yards.

"We were playing fast and hard, and we were hitting," Wormley said. "[Pressuring Roback] was one of the main points of our defense. We just mixed up the schemes and threw a lot of blitzes at him."

The Panthers added a sack in the second half, and recovered two Titan fumbles in the game.

"We're living with our defense right now," Palka said. "We expect them to play great, and they continue to do it."

After Webb's 59-yard TD run down the right sideline capped Whitmer's scoring with 5:53 left in the third quarter, St. John's finally managed some semblance of offense.

Roback marched the Titans' 77 yards in 12 plays, and hit Joe Robie on a 12-yard TD connection on a fourth-down play with 18 seconds left in the third quarter.

St. John's later marched from its 1 to the Panthers' 9 in the fourth quarter before the Whitmer defense stopped that drive. The Panthers have outscored their opposition 215-13 through five games.

Smith, playing for injured Panther QB Tyler Palka, was solid in his first varsity start. He was 7-of-11 passing for 109 yards, ran seven times for 18 yards, and delivered the hardest hit of the game on a block when Webb was reversing his field on second-quarter run.

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com, 419-724-6461 or on Twitter @JungaBlade.

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