Multiple turnovers, penalties and a lightning delay all played a factor in detouring the Sweet Home Panthers in their Thursday night matchup with Niagara Wheatfield.

Lucky for them, they had Diar Fleming, whose performance on the ground helped offset their indiscretions in a major way.

Fleming went off for just under 190 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Panthers to a 24-14 victory on the road over Niagara Wheatfield in a Class A North showdown.

“The way the line got rolling, being able to run the ball, it was big,” Sweet Home coach Jeremy Zimmer said. “[Fleming] played a great game and ran the ball hard … he trained his tail off in the summer and he’s just worked so hard.”

It was about as solid of a start as one could want from a Sweet Home (2-0, 0-1) perspective, as quarterback Jake Dunstan got the Panthers on the board with a 4-yard keeper, and not too long after, Fleming notched his first score of the evening with a 17-yard scamper, giving his team a 12-0 lead after the first quarter.

However, then came the miscues. After the Falcons (0-2, 0-1) got on the board off a perfect 30-yard pass and catch from quarterback Xander Fletcher to receiver Shawn Watson to make it 12-8, Sweet Home had a chance to answer back on their ensuing drive – only to fumble away the ball on the Niagara Wheatfield 4-yard line.

It was the first of three turnovers in Falcon territory on the night from the Panthers.

“We made every mistake possible in the first half,” Zimmer said. “I’m just proud of the way the team could come back out, settle themselves down, and play good football … we did a really nice job to finish the game.”

After leading 12-8 at halftime, a 30-minute lightning delay with eight minutes to play in the third quarter paused the action, but once the players returned to the field, more turnovers ensued.

An interception of Dunstan by Niagara Wheatfield’s Jakob Smith, followed by a Te’Sean Mathews fumble that was recovered by Sweet Home, and lastly, a near touchdown for Fleming that ended in Trevon Mathews stripping him at the goal line and running the other way — all happened on three consecutive drives. Then, after all the chaos, the Falcons took the lead early in the fourth quarter, as Fletcher connected with receiver Jayden Baker on a 29-yard last ditch heave on fourth down to put the Falcons up 14-12.

Fletcher finished the day an efficient 20-for-27 for 140 yards and two touchdowns.

While the result may not have held for Wheatfield, there was still plenty to take away for Falcons coach Joe Kiszka.

“We’re trying to build a culture and program here, and it starts with this group,” he said. “The score doesn’t reflect much other than that we took the loss – the effort was there, they played well as a team, and we’re heading in the right direction.”

The Falcon jubilation was short-lived, as the Panthers marched down the field and retook the lead, 18-14, three minutes later via a 1-yard jet sweep touchdown from Jordan Theodore, which wound up being the game-winning score.

Fleming’s big day was punctuated with a 6-yard touchdown to secure the victory, just after the Panther defense held stout and prevented the Falcons from going anywhere on their final drive.

“We were really beating ourselves, but we kept our heads up and everything straightened itself out,” Fleming said. “I want to give a big thanks to my blockers – they did a hell of a job today.”

Both teams return to action on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m., as Sweet Home hosts Kenmore West while the Falcons go on the road to face Niagara Falls.

 

Other Games:

North Tonawanda 36, Kenmore East 23

The Bulldogs scored on their opening drive but the Lumberjacks prevailed in the end. Dennis (DJ) Johnson scored four touchdowns to lead NT. The senior accounted for 145 all-purpose yards. This was the first win for North Tonawanda at home since George J. Vetter Stadium was renovated four years ago.

Pictured L-R
Austin (Knock-Knock) Nachreiner), Justin “Jivvers” Van Volkenburg and Dennis “DJ” Johnson

 

Cheektowaga 40, Burgard 6

The Warriors broke into the win column Thursday night, defeating Burgard 40-6. Senior Cam Warburton had 93 yards on the ground and two scores. Jalen Henlon rushed for two TD’s as well while sophomore QB Matt Barr completed 5 of his 7 passes for 136 yards and two scores. Burgard falls to 1-1 on the season. Bulldogs QB Kire Eaglin threw a touchdown pass and ran for 116 yards.

 

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