The Panther football team finally returned home Friday for their home opener as they played host to the Pius Popes.
Pius is new to the Woodland Conference this year and was their first Woodland Conference game against Greendale. These two teams have played once before during the playoffs back in 2010 when Pius won by a score of 22-20. Unfortunately for the Popes that didn't happen this time as they were welcomed in an unfriendly manor. They were dismantled by the Panthers by a score of 45-6.
Both teams came into this game with a 2-0 record as Pius beat Cudahy and South Milwaukee in their first two games and Greendale beat South Milwaukee and Greenfield in their first two games. That meant that this game was a statement as to where both teams are.
Pius has one of the area's top quarterbacks in senior Connor Senger who is quick on his feet, likes to throw the ball, and will always make plays. He is a play maker. Greendale knew they had to find a way to make life miserable for him in order for them to have a chance of winning. That's what they did as they showed up with several disguised blitz packages that forced Senger to run for his life and prevented him from cutting up Greendale's secondary. In the end, however, it would be the Panther's sophomore quarterback Josh Ringelberg stealing the show as he lead his offense for 464 total yards compared to the Pope's 280 total yards.
The Popes kicked first to start the game. After a close call with a fumble on the return, Greendale started from their 32. On their very first play, they had trouble again with a fumble as the handoff was missed and just like that, Pius found themselves with the ball on Greendale's 34.
Greendale's defense came up big forcing the Pope's offense to a 4th and 12. It looked like Pius was going for it but instead quick kicked from their offensive set resulting in the ball coming to rest on the Panther's 3.
Ringelberg and crew took to the field and had to start from deep in a hole. On the very first play, there was another fumble of which Greendale recovered, but the ball was on the 1-yard line. Instead of running a run play, the Panthers took to the air as Ringelberg rolled to his right and found Nate Miller on the right side line who managed to shake loose and get some much needed breathing room before being knocked out of bounds at the Panther 24. They ran 8 more plays before being forced to punt from the Pope's 47.
After the punt, Pius found themselves lining up on their 15. They squeezed off 5-plays before being forced to punt back to the Panthers.
Greendale started this drive from their 34. This time they ran 15-plays all on the ground-moving the ball to the Pope's 3-yard line. They ended up having to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Frankie Rutkowski, which was the game's first score. The scoreboard read 3-0 with :14 seconds left in the 1st quarter.
On the ensuing kick, things went wrong for the Popes for on the return, Greendale's Sam Sabinsh knocked the ball loose of which Jack Ringelberg recovered on the Pope's 17.
On the very first play, Josh Ringelberg stinged the Popes as he hooked up with Cody Kmetz for a 22-yard scoring strike. Rutkowsk made his kick and Greendale added a few more points to the score before the 1st quarter ended as the board read 10-0 with :01 second left.
The unsung hero's of the Panther's specialty teams were flying high as they smothered the return man back on his 7-yard line. This time Pius took on a new approach as they operated a hurry-up version of their offense. They managed to get all the way to the Panther's 5-yard line and were looking at 1st and goal. With the way things were going during this drive, one could have bet money that the Popes were going to score. Well if you made that bet, you would have lost as the Panther defense rose to the occasion and kept Pius from scoring on all 4-plays, which was kind of amazing actually. As a result, Greendale started from their 1-yard line.
On the very first play, cool hand Ringelberg dropped back to pass and find a wide open Peter Pekar running a crossing route-picking up 34-yards on the play. Fourteen plays later, the Panthers reached the zone as Ringelberg again hooked up with Kmetz for a 21-yards scoring strike. That capped off a 15-play 99-yard drive. Rutkowski splitted the uprights and the Panthers were now up 17-0 with 3:58 left in the 1st half.
The Popes started their next drive after a nice return on their 38. Seven plays later they turned the ball over on downs as Jack Ringelberg, who is Josh's twin brother, broke up a pass in the end zone that would have been a sure touchdown.
With 2:19 left in the 1st half, Greendale took possession on their 25. Three plays later, Ringelberg was intercepted by the Pope's Christian Garcia who took it to the Panther 28.
Greendale's defense continued to make life miserable for Senger, but the guy never gave up and was always trying to make plays. Looking at a 4th and 27 from his 29, he rolled to his right and unleash a pass catching a Panther defender day dreaming. He hooked up with his favorite receiver Darius Nance for a 29-yard scoring strike. The extra point kick failed and Pius was finally on the board but trailing by a score of 17-6 with :08 seconds left in the half.
After the kick, Greendale took a knee to end the 1st half of play.
The Popes got the ball first to start the 2nd half. After some more amazing specialty team play, the Popes found themselves starting from their 15. They resumed their hurry-up style of offence and put together 12-plays before one of their receivers fumbled after a catch of which Greendale's Nate Miller recovered on his 16.
Nine plays later that included a lot of gashing runs, Greendale crossed the goal line on a 1-yard sneak by Ringelberg completing a 9-play 84-yard drive. Rutkowski made his kick and Greendale now was up 24-6 with 6:05 left in the 3rd.
Pius was forced to start from their 20 as Rutkowski's kick found the end zone. Three things can happen when you pass the ball and two of them are bad. That's what the Popes discovered for on their very first play of the drive, Senger was intercepted by shutdown corner Mitchell Brees who returned it 20-yards to the Pope's 31-yard line.
Smelling blood, the Panther's high powered offence took to the field to see if they could put this game out of reach. Three plays later they did punch it in as Ringelberg did do the honors-untouched from 8-yards out. Rutkowski split the uprights again and at this point the Panthers blew the game wide open by a score of 31-6 with 4:56 left in the 3rd quarter.
Pius was still trying to get something going as they began from their 26 after the kick. Six plays later, the Panther defense came up huge again as Jack Ringelberg intercepted the ball on his 46.
The Panther's offense have punched the clock once again. They ran 6-plays before Pius's Antwan Powell stepped in front of a Ringelberg pass for the interception and returned it to his 42.
Still looking for that spark, the Popes were leaning more towards passing then running. Of course the Panthers knew that and continued to keep the heat on Senger. They eventually forced the Popes to turn the ball over on downs way back on Pius's 33.
Looking at a short field, Greendale would now take over possession of the ball. Three plays later, running back Jake Zywicki took it in from 3-yards out for Greendale's 5th touchdown of the night. Rutkowski converted his kick and now the Panthers were on the verge of creating another running clock situation, which is something that they have done in the last 2 games. The score read 38-6 with 10:53 left in the game.
The Popes started from their 20 after another touchback. They ran 5-plays before looking at a 4th and 6 from their 34. I guess desperate times call for desperate measures as they would go for it but come up short as the pass fell incomplete. Greendale took over on downs at the Pius 34.
The Panthers didn't waste time again as they reached the end zone 2-plays later on a 18-yard Ringelberg pass to Gaelan Seibold. Rutkowski made his kick and the running clock would now begin as the score was Greendale 45 - Pius 6 with 9:01 left in the game.
Pius began this drive from their 31. They ran 6-plays before the merciless Greendale Panther defense pulled the plug as linebacker Zack Henderso picked off a Senger pass on his 18.
With 6:00 minutes left on the ticking clock, Greendale was now out to just burn the clock. They stayed on the ground and run 3-plays before having to punt the ball away.
The demoralized Popes took to the field and ended up turning the ball over on downs on their 41. All Greendale needed to do was take a few knees to end the game.
The final score was Greendale 45 - Pius 6. One could only conclude that Greendale made a statement on Friday night as they took it to the Popes in an overwhelming fashion. It's also a forgone conclusion that Josh Ringelberg is the real deal and is looking like one of the top quarterbacks in the conference. I don't think his grade year matters and I'm pretty sure that the Panther coaching staff doesn't care either. The guy is a player and makes things happen with minimal mistakes. The offensive line looks to have has come together and the receivers do what they do... catch footballs! The defense is a completely different animal. They have only given up 21-points in 3 games and have shown an uncanny way of getting to the ball fast and making plays.
The Panthers will now take their 17 conference game winning streak with them and head west to Pewaukee to take on the Pirates. Like Greendale, the Pirates will be coming into this game with a perfect record so that means that something's got to give. That game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.