For the fifth consecutive week, the Watervliet Panthers have won by putting up 50 or more points. The Panthers claimed their homecoming match over Kalamazoo United Friday 52-34, handing the Titans their first defeat of 2017. It also gives Watervliet a 3-0 record over the Titans since the co-op formed. Panther quarterback Zack Pickens set a career high, unofficially throwing for 455 yards.
Watervliet forced a three-and-out on the opening Titan drive, then scored on their opener with a 1-yard Bryant Kieft rush. The two-point toss went to Garrett Matthews for an 8-0 start. United struck on their second drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Eric Wenzel to Heath Baldwin, but stayed behind 8-6 after a sack on the two-point try. Watervliet made it 2-2 on scoring drives and made the lead 14-6 with an 18-yard Pickens rush (their two-point try failed).
The Titans’ next drive ended in a fumble on a botched option run, recovered by Lamarrius Smith. However, United was able to stop Watervliet for the first time on a turnover-on-downs. The momentum switched right back with 8:49 remaining in the second quarter, as defensive tackle James Bell snagged a pass at the line and took it 51 yards for a score. The two-point rush was denied for a 20-6 tally.
Less than a minute later, Wenzel connected again with Baldwin, this time for a 52-yard touchdown pass. They found each other again for the two, putting the Titans back within six, 20-14. The next Panther drive made it to the red zone, but ended in a fumble in what was ultimately their only giveaway of the game. United had to punt, giving Watervliet time to score with 1:13 remaining on a 37-yard pass from Pickens to Kieft. The two-point pass to Matthews gave the Panthers a 28-14 lead going into the break.
Watervliet started with the ball in the third and continued scoring, punching in with a 1-yard Pickens rush. The two-point pass was completed to Ryan Chisek for a 36-14 score. The Panthers attempted an onside kick and Wenzel recovered it and took off, going from his own 45 to within eight yards of the end zone. It took all four downs, but the Titans scored with a seven-yard pass from Wenzel to Jacob Niesen. The two-point try was intercepted, 36-20.
Watervliet again moved down the field with ease, scoring in about three minutes with a nine-yard pass from Pickens to Trent Boone. Matthews’ third two-point catch pushed the score to 44-20 with 4:09 in the third. Not even a minute later, Wenzel found a wide-open Christian Bartholomew for a 50-yard touchdown pass. Wenzel’s two-point rush got them back within 16, 44-28.
The Kalamazoo United defense came alive, forcing a turnover-on-downs on back-to-back drives. After the first, Wenzel found Baldwin for a seven-yard passing touchdown, getting them back within ten at the end of the third quarter 44-34, as the two-point rush was stuffed.
After the second, the Titans started a methodical drive with two fourth-down conversions. However, the 11th play of the drive was a pass deflected by Boone, into the hands of Lamarrius Smith for an interception. Kieft would soon get his second rushing touchdown, this one from five-yards out, and a two-point rush by Pickens pushed the score to its concluding point of 52-34. The Titans’ last gasp would be a turnover-on-downs, followed by the Panthers draining the final four minutes.
The unofficial final line for Pickens; 26-40 passing, 455 yards, two passing touchdowns, along with 146 yards on the ground and two rushing scores. Kieft had 200 yards receiving on seven catches, along with 41 rushing yards for three total touchdowns. Both Boone and Matthews also had more than 100 yards receiving.
For Titan quarterback Eric Wenzel; 24-47 for 300 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. Bartholomew had 88 yards, Baldwin had 78. The Titans were held to negative yards rushing. Watervliet finished with 641 total yards, compared to 295 for the Titans.
Along with the 5-0 overall mark, the Panthers also begin SAC Valley division play at 1-0. They have three straight road games against Valley rivals ahead with a trip to Delton Kellogg up next. United falls to 4-1 and hosts another 4-1 squad, Coloma, for week six. Listen back to week five’s broadcast below: