FRA went up against out-of-state division opponent Northpoint Christian at home as the first round of the D-II AA playoffs began Friday night at home.
The Panthers wound up taking it in a 48-12 victory.
The game started off slow with a few back and forth stops between both teams. That was until Jackson Cummiskey was open on a perfectly-run corner route for 24 yards from Sean Casey to give the Panthers its first lead of the ball game. This would make it 7-0.
Then disaster struck Northpoint as they fumbled on the ensuing drive inside of their own 20 yard line giving FRA great field position to set up their drive.
This drive would be capped off by a run from Jeffrey Vercher for a four-yard touchdown run increasing the the Panthers’ lead to 14 points with 2:21 left in the first quarter.
After this, momentum seemed to shift heavily in favor towards FRA, and they showed no signs of slowing down.
They would go on to stop Northpoint on the next drive after they stalled on offense. They drove down the field and Sean Casey hit a wide open Cummiskey for a 29 yard touchdown pass making it a 21 point lead for the Panthers. This would only be the beginning of a dominant first half for FRA.
Cummiskey had a great game as it felt like every catch he made would go for a touchdown. He had only three catches, bringing in two of them for touchdowns with 65 yards receiving.
FRA had no problem getting down the field in the beginning of the second quarter after yet another stop by its defense. This drive would end with another Vercher touchdown, once again from inside the Northpoint five yard line to extend the FRA lead to 28 points.
Vercher not only contributed tonight through his rushing performance but defensively as well. Right after scoring the touchdown, he intercepted an poorly thrown Northpoint pass and ran it back for a 43-yard pick six, making it 34-0 FRA with six minutes left in the second quarter.
The majority of Vercher’s touchdowns would come from the ground as he had 72 yards rushing on the evening as FRA pulled most of their starters in the second half, which didn’t allow him to get his usual numbers.
While Northpoint wasn’t really favored in this matchup that didn’t do themselves any favors by turning the ball over on back to back drives.
Right after giving a touchdown to Vercher on the pick six, they threw another interception to set up an FRA score. This time coming from Kingston Gardner on a 30 yard pass in a favorable matchup to improve the score to 41-0 in the second quarter
One of the two Northpoint touchdowns would happen next as Northpoint caught the Panthers corners on a wonderful screen pass that lead the receiver straight to the end zone for a 67 touchdown to the end all chances of a shutout for FRA with a score of 41-6 after having the extra point blocked.
FRA would quickly remind Northpoint who was in control of the game on the next drive after another Kingston Gardner touchdown would make the score 48-6. This would bring an explosive first half to a close for FRA.
Northpoint wouldn’t score again until there was 3:43 left in the game on a bad snap that hit off of the FRA quarterback’s hands resulting in an easy scoop and score to shorten the FRA lead to 36 points.
The stats that stuck out the most in this game were third down efficiency and first downs, both showed why FRA deserved to win this game.
FRA went 6 of 9 on third down and had 15 first downs in the game. They also capitalized on all three of the turnovers they got with their defense, showing just how dominant they played tonight.
FRA coach Bill Whittemore shared his thoughts on the game.
“The boys played hard.” Whittemore said. “We capitalized on opportunities, but we still gotta get better. We’re still making too many mistakes to advance as far as we’re hoping to get to. We’re excited to have another home game, but we’ve gotta clean up some things in order to take care of that.”
All in all, FRA got it done at home when they needed with the victory.
They will be playing Lausanne, who eliminated them from the playoffs two years ago when Lausanne won its last state championship.
Can FRA make it to the semifinals once again? They’ll have to handle Lausanne at home to find out.