SILVER SPRING – The Paint Branch Panthers are on cruise control just in time for the postseason.
The squad from Burtonsville rolled into Bengal Field Friday to face consortium rival Blake. The visiting Paint Branch Panthers dominated the time of possession and steamrolled the Blake Bengals 35-15.
Both teams entered the game with a 7-1 record. In fact, this season’s Bengals boast the best record in school history. However, Blake couldn’t get much going offensively and the Panthers took advantage.
The Paint Branch defense would have registered a shutout in the first half had it not been for Blake junior quarterback Terrill Sims, who shoved his way through the pile at the goal line for a three-yard score.
Sims’ touchdown and the subsequent two-point conversion pass to wide receiver Kenny Gardner was the one lone ray of hope in a Panther-dominated first half.
Paint Branch running back Justin Page burst through the Blake defense several times for long runs that set the Panthers up in the red zone. The junior finished the evening with over 100 yards rushing.
“I rely on [the offensive line] to block for me and they rely on me to run well and do my job,” said Page. “If we both do our jobs, we can have big games like this.”
With Page running wild on the Blake defense, all quarterback Norman Douglas had to do was sneak into the end zone for a pair of touchdowns in the first half.
After junior receiver Ishmael Agbodzah danced into the paint for a 34-yard score, the Panthers nursed a 13-point lead heading into halftime.
Blake’s offensive woes continued when the players took the field to start the second half. The Bengals struggled to move the ball and were unable to capitalize on Sims’ 55-yard run. Even a first-and-goal situation at the eight-yard line didn’t translate to points.
Blake head coach DeShawn Anderson said it was uncharacteristic for his team to make so many mistakes.
“They played us really tough and our boys didn’t respond that well. We were out of character. We didn’t tackle that well and they put us in positions that we were uncomfortable with on both sides of the ball,” said Anderson.
Meanwhile, Paint Branch continued to fire on all cylinders. Douglas connected with running back Sam Doku on a short pass. Even though a Blake defender tried to tackle Doku at the goal line, the sophomore muscled his way into the end zone for a three-yard score.
Page continued to eat up yardage and move the offense down the field. Junior running back D’Angelo Ferguson added the icing on the cake with a two-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Bengals gave one last gasp as the seconds ticked off the clock. Sophomore quarterback Isaiah Smith took over for Sims behind center and lobbed a 21-yard pass to Isaac Smith. The running back was surrounded by Paint Branch defenders when he caught the ball in stride for another Blake touchdown with just 14 seconds left in the game.
The victory brings the Panthers one step closer to clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Paint Branch must defeat Clarksburg next week to seal the deal.
Even though the Bengals lost, Anderson stressed that the season is not yet over for his squad. A victory against Watkins Mill next week should guarantee Blake a second or third seed.
Paint Branch head coach Mike Nesmith applauded his team’s effort and focus during the big rivalry game.
“We asked them to avoid all of the back-and-forth nonsense and to focus on us getting better, and they did that all week and they did that tonight,” he said. “They came out very business-like. I could sense it all week during practice and during warmups. I knew we were going to play well but we still have some work to do.”