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Standing behind the protection of his running backs, Jack Lesher (left) and Alex Marre, Panthers quarterback Tyler Guerra looks for an open receiver.

103 Panthers' best efforts  
come up short on Homecoming

Fall to undefeated Arlington Heights


By Ed Muniz
CAROL STREAM -- Celebrating their Homecoming on September 24, the Carol Stream Panthers Black 103 Gold team were looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd at Glenbard North. For the Panthers organization, each team has their own celebration unlike others where all their teams play at home on the same day in a massive celebration.
Homecoming decorations and spirits added to a festive mood as the 103 Panthers took to the field. 
Coming into their match-up with the unbeaten Arlington Heights Cowboys, the once beaten Panthers knew a battle was in store.
For these Panthers, who last year at 93-pounds went unbeaten in the Silver division; losing is not something they are used to. Moving up to the Gold division where the competition is stronger, the Panthers had already lost once so another loss could be costly in the in their quest for the playoffs.
For this years’ Panther team, it’s been all or nothing. In their three wins they have given up not a point; while in their lone loss, they were held scoreless. Knowing they had a tough game ahead, the team held hopes that it could find the endzone once more than their visitors.
Similarly, the visiting Cowboys (4-0-0-) had three shutouts this season.
The immediate difference between the two teams was clearly visible as the Cowboys held a size advantage. Once the game started they also displayed good quickness. The combination was too much for the undersized Panthers to handle in a 30-0 defeat.
The Panthers defense started out strong. Going on an 8-play drive, Arlington Heights did gain some yards and managed to push the Panthers defense to their own 22-yard. But on fourth down, Drew Surges came up with a huge, hard tackle to stop the Cowboys runner in his tracks and turn the ball over to the Panthers offense.
The Panthers defense was up to the task early with Alex Marre, Joshua Wong, Tyler Guerra and Brian Petrancosta adding tackles.
Panthers linebacker Jack Lesher (34) runs in hot pursuit of an Arlington Heights ballcarrier.
Carol Stream's offense couldn't sustain momentum throughout the game. It showed early on their first series with a three-and-out. Surges and Jack Lesher are outstanding running backs, but they found little room to roam and were pursued in the backfield much of the game.
Closing out the first quarter, the Cowboys offense started to assert itself. Beginning with the second quarter, they closed in on the games’ first score. Though they converted from two yards out for the 6-0 lead, the Cowboys still had to deal with the heavy hitting and tackling of the Panthers’ Marre, Lesher, Surges and Peter Hernandez.
Just 90 seconds later, a Panthers pass attempt was picked off and give the Cowboys great field position at the Panthers’ 45.
Spending a lot of time on the field, the Panthers defense showed a lot of grit in difficult situations. Numerous Panthers made sure the Cowboys knew they were in a football game with hard hits and tackles. Twin corners, Matt and Zach Kurzeja were a constant presence with their ability to come up with big stops. In one stretch, Matt made four-of-seven tackles.
“I didn’t back-peddle or back up as they came around the end,” said Matt. “I was moving, but we were weak on the passes. I forced them inside, but we shifted and weren’t in the right position. I guess I could keep my eye on the ball longer when they pass.”
After giving up a 13-yard score, the Panthers now trailed 14-0 after the Cowboys’ 2-pont passing conversion. Unable to kickstart any offense, the Panthers punted back to the Visitors. Using the pass, the Cowboys used the last half minute to move 46 yards for their third touchdown of the game.
The second of the Cowboys' two touchdowns in the last two minutes came with just a second before the buzzer and gave thefm a 22-0 lead.
In the second half, the Panthers running game continued to look for openings, with Surges, Lesher and Marre searching for gaps.
Panthers all-purpose player Drew Surges punts the ball away during the Homecoming game against the Arlington Heighta.
The quick-footed Marre was hard to find, but with his smaller size he couldn’t find the success he had in earlier games. Lesher, the Panthers power back, found the Cowboys' wall difficult to get through and was limited in yardage, but worked hard on each run and earned every inch. Surges was the workhorse of the three. Getting more rushing opportunities, he took a pounding throughout but never quit on any attempt. 
“They got through the line and stopped us,” Surges added. “I was trying to lower my shoulder and get through the line or juke them. I was told by my coaches to follow my lead blocker and get through the line but nothing was working. 
“I think my injuries kind of affected my play. We needed to get through the line on defense and do better on pass defense.”
Arlington Heights showed why they came in as the BGYFL’s top 103 team when they added a final score midway through the third period. The Cowboys went 57 yards on a pass play to again use their size and speed to create mismatches as they had throughout the game.
Amin Dhruv, Jeffrey Forrest, Joey DiGiulio, Emir Paniagua, Joey Ferruzza Omar Samayoa, and Blake Maday, also gave their all in the game.
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