Badgers incinerate visiting Panthers with 85-0 shutout in their first game

Snow Badger #74, Mafatini Mafatini leaps right over Panther defender in opening game that saw Snow destroy their opponents, 85-0.

EPHRAIM—The Snow College football team made it clear to all watchers last week that they are ready to compete for a championship again.

The Badgers incinerated the visiting Panthers of Gordon’s Fine Arts and Sports Academy, 85-0, last Saturday in their first game of the season, eclipsing the 77-0 shutout over the Panthers from last year. Gordon’s offense moved backwards all game long against a deeper/faster/stronger Snow defense. The Badgers generated 22 points on defensive touchdowns alone, with another one even being called back by a penalty. The Panthers were held to a negative 2 total yards at the half.

Snow lost a few key players on both sides of the ball last year, and there were some questions how the team would respond.

“We knew coming into this game that we were going to have some challenges,” said Coach Zac Erekson. “We lost one of the best quarterbacks in the nation with Garrison Beach moving on and we knew the defense would be missing some real key players so we really hoped we could get a feel for how good we can be.”

Erekson mentioned that a tougher matchup this week against Gila River, Ariz. should give his staff a better indication of where they need to be.

“We still have some things to work on,” he said. “We have to limit our penalties and we have to work on some discipline on the field.”

If for nothing else than to create irony, Snow’s first snap of the game was a fumble on a run up the middle, which was recovered by the Panthers. The Panthers’ ensuing possession immediately met a defensive brick wall from the Badgers for a turnover on downs in four plays.

Snow got on the board after four minutes of action with a 2-yard touchdown run from freshman running back Sione Molisi for the first touchdown of Snow’s 2021 season. They followed it up on their next offensive possession with a 19-yard touchdown pass from walk-on freshman quarterback Tommy McGrath to sophomore wide receiver Taylor Larsen for a 14-0 lead.

The Panthers surprisingly turned their answering drive into a long one, thanks to multiple ill-timed penalties by the Badgers giving them two different fourth-down conversions. Getting all the way down inside the 10, Gordon opted for a shot at the middle of the end zone, and it was picked off by freshman linebacker Kohl Hogan, who took it 97 yards back for a defensive score.

Just before the end of the first quarter, Gordon’s long snapper air mailed the snap over the punter’s head into the end zone, and freshman Elijah Ervin leapt onto the ball for the easy defensive touchdown and a 29-0 lead.

Snow blocked the Panthers’ punt in the second quarter; and the Badgers’ first play of the quarter turned into a 38-yard touchdown by freshman running back Targhee Lambson. Snow’s defense forced yet another turnover on the next drive, blowing up the Panther running back, and a few plays later, Molisi scored his second touchdown of the night.

On Gordon’s next drive, freshman Reginald Akles delivered a play that harkened back to the leather-helmet days of football. Akles blitzed from the blindside and delivered a hit on the quarterback worthy of a Mortal Kombat video game, causing the ball and the quarterback’s helmet to equally fly off. Akles took the fumble 35 yards to the house for Snow’s third defensive touchdown.

Snow scored again on their next drive thanks to several big runs by Molisi, capped off by a 1-yard run by McGrath for his first touchdown on the ground, taking a 57-0 lead into the half.

After halftime, freshman Gabe Sweeten went in at quarterback for the Badgers and completed a 4-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Peyton Beck. 

After an interception by the Snow defense, Sweeten impressed with his legs by rolling out right for a quarterback keeper and turning on the jets for a 53-yard touchdown run.

On the next drive, fourth-string running back Carsen Manookin took a handoff and burned the first level of the defense, then hurdled a safety en route to the 20-yard touchdown.

Manookin scored one more time in the third quarter, the final scoring play for the Badgers with a 12-yard carry spinning off of the defensive line.

The Badgers will stay at home for their first five games of the year. They’ll be up against Gila River, Ariz., this Saturday at 7 p.m.