By Eric Shannon
PORUM – Defense may have been the theme for the night, but junior running back Darren Bollman was the workhorse on opening night for the Porum Panthers.
Shouldering the brunt of the Panther offense with 173 yards rushing on 25 carries and one receiving touchdown, the Panthers outlasted the Webbers Falls Warriors 14-6 at Panther Field.
“Darren (Bollman) is one of the toughest kids I have ever coached in my 13 years,” said Porum coach Kenny Hokit. “As he goes, we go as a team.”
Even though Bollman was the star of the night, it was the Panther defense that stood tall late in the game to seal the outcome.
Webbers Falls’ Darren Shanks woke his team up early in the fourth quarter and cut Porum’s lead to 14-6 with his eight-yard touchdown pass to Easton Eckhardt with 9:39 remaining in the game.
Shanks then directed another Warrior drive with 5:12 left in the final period. But the Panther defense rose to the occasion.
Driving to the Panther 16 yard line, Shanks was driving to tie the game until Austin Wright sacked Shanks for a seven-yard loss on third down.
Now facing a fourth and 12, Shanks found Dakota Reed for the apparent touchdown, but a block in the back downfield backed the Warriors up for a fourth and six attempt. Once again, it was Wright who stepped up and brought Shanks down in the backfield to end the drive.
“Austin is a heck of a leader for us and really stepped up big there in the end,” said Hokit.
Bollman scored the game’s first points to cap a 13-play drive that took six minutes and 27 seconds.
Moving the ball down to the Warrior 13 and facing a third down and seven, Panther quarterback Dakota Wright rolled to his left and then shot putted the ball to an open Bollman for the first score of the night with 8:22 remaining in the second quarter.
After the Warriors offense sputtered in turning the ball over on downs on their own 49, Bollman and company went to work again.
This time, Wright scored on a quarterback draw from six yards out to finish a nine-play drive and put the Panthers up 14-0 with just 2:25 left in the second quarter.
The Warriors’ defense changed up their pace after halftime by moving extra defenders on the line to combat the Panther running game. The offense then found a glimmer of hope at the end of the third quarter.
Eckhardt found a streaking Reed for a 50-yard pass for the Warriors’ only scoring drive.
“I was concerned a bit about our pass defense because we have a freshman and sophomore in the back end, but other than the one big play, I am very happy the way we covered,” Hokit said. “This was a big win for us. To open the season with a win against our neighbors is good.”