Panthers’ playoff plans halted at Fort Recovery


Fairbanks’ Riordin Stauffer can’t get a handle on this pass attempt Saturday evening at Fort Recovery. The Panthers fell, 63-7, during the Division VI playoff game.

(Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)

Someone once joked the community of Fort Recovery, Ohio wasn’t at the end of the earth from the central portion of the state, but that you “could see it (the end) from there.”

What wasn’t a laughing matter, however, was what the town’s football team (located near the Ohio-Indiana line) did to end the Fairbanks Panthers’ playoff hopes on Saturday evening.

The Indians, who had won only twice during an abbreviated six-game regular season, ran through and passed over the Panthers en route to a 63-7 victory in Division VI play-off action.

Things went wrong for the Panthers right from the start.

“I didn’t have the guys ready to play,” conceded FHS head coach Patrick Cotter. “If I could have done it differently, we would have come out with more spark.

“That’s on me.”

Fort Recovery, which will play at Coldwater (7-0) on Saturday after beating Triad 37-6, rolled to 512 yards of total offense and averaged a little more than 12 yards per snap.

The Indians, who are known more for their aerial game, actually did more damage on the ground with 355 yards (compared to 157 in the air).

FHS (4-3) went three-and-out to start the contest and punted away the ball.

Fort Recovery quarterback Clay Schmitz set the early tone for the Indians.

He lofted a 36-yard pass to Gavin Thobe that put the ball on FHS’ 14-yard-line.

A couple of plays later, Derek Jutte scampered nine yards into the end zone for the score.

Cobe Wendel booted the first of nine extra points for a 7-0 lead.

Another brief Panther possession led to another punt.

That, in turn, sparked another Fort Recovery touchdown.

Jutte and Thobe picked up yardage on the ground, while Schmitz connected with Thobe on a pass down to the FHS 18.

Jutte took the pigskin on a reverse and threaded his way through Fairbanks defenders for the touchdown.

The PAT left the hometown Indians up 14-0 with 3:44 left in the opening period.

Panther punter Cade Ziegler stayed busy, kicking the ball away after FHS’ next series.

Fort Recovery took over on its 22-yard-line and moved across midfield as the opening quarter came to an end.

It didn’t take long for the Indians to pile on additional points.

Thobe took the handoff on the first play of the second stanza. He bobbed and weaved his way through defenders for a 40-yard score.

Wendel’s trusty leg was once again accurate, leading to a 21-0 Indian advantage.

Fort Recovery’s ensuing kickoff sailed out of bounds, giving FHS the ball at its own 12.

A total of three plays pushed the Panthers back a couple yards.

As such, Ziegler was forced to punt from his own end zone.

The snap from center was bobbled and the Indians fell on the pigskin at the FHS two-yard-line.

Thobe, who was turning into a scoring machine, went across the end line on the next snap.

Wendel’s accuracy pushed Fort Recovery out to a 28-0 lead.

Thobe added another touchdown, this time on a 73-yard sprint, with 6:22 left until halftime.

The Panthers, down 35-0, kept up the fight and were not going to be denied the end zone.

Fairbanks put its lone touchdown on the board with slightly more than four minutes left to play until the turn.

Brogan Green tallied that TD on a 16-yard run.

Ziegler booted the extra point, pulling FHS to within 35-7.

Although there were just a handful of minutes remaining until the intermission, it was still plenty of time for the Indians to make a return trip to the scoreboard.

Fort Recovery made a nice drive down the field as the final minutes ticked away.

Thobe crashed into the end zone on a one-yard run with 25 ticks on the clock.

Wendel’s extra point sent the Indians into the break with a 42-7 lead.

Since the Indians led by more than 30 points at the start of the second half, the running clock rule was implemented.

Another Fort Recovery score early in the third set gave the Indians the insurance they needed to know regular time would not be kept the rest of the way.

Schmitz found Dillan Evers on a 20-yard scoring strike with 8:50 left in the third quarter.

Additional Indian scores came with 5:37 left in the period (on a 15-yard run by Riley Hiser) and 5:45 remaining in the fourth stanza.

The final touchdown came on a 16-yard run by backup quarterback Chase Kaiser.

Wendel’s extra points after the final three TDs provided the Indians with their final margin of victory.

While the playoff scene is over for the Panthers, Cotter had some good things to say.

“Our seniors did some great things for our program,” he said. “I’ve been very proud to coach this group.

“They worked very hard the past four seasons.”

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