NAUGATUCK — The Tug Valley Panthers lived in the Westside backfield on Friday night as they sacked the Renegades 11 times in a 49-14 win at Bob Brewer Stadium.
The win for the Panthers got them back on track after a setback to Mt. View the week prior as they improved to 6-2 on the season and now prepare for a big game with No. 11 Man (6-2) this Friday at home.
“We played better tonight, we played with much more intensity,” Panther coach Hady Ford said after the win. “We’re going to enjoy this moment, but it will be quick because we’ve got to get ready for Man. We win next week, and we can punch our playoff ticket, so we’ve got to come with some intensity next week.”
It was Military Appreciation night as Tug Valley wore camouflage jerseys donated by the West Virginia National Guard. The Westside offensive line must have had a tough time seeing the Tug defensive front seven as they lived in the Renegade backfield and in the face of QB Kaiden Vance all game long.
Buddy Marcum and Ashton Davis paced the Tug defense with three sacks apiece, Riley Damron and Austin Smith each had two sacks, and Luke Bartrum finished with one for the Panthers.
“Our defensive line has played good all year for us, and I was really proud of our linebackers tonight. That’s the best they have played all year, and I want to give kudos to them,” Ford said.
Tug Valley was playing without the services of starting quarterback Elijah Fluty, who had to miss the game due to a concussion, and backup QB Jaxon Nenni-Mills filled in admirably to pick up the win in his first career start.
Nenni-Mills finished the game 11-21 passing for 188 yards and three touchdowns on the night while also adding an eight-yard rush with his legs.
“As the game went on, he (Nenni-Mills) started throwing better and just got comfortable in the pocket,” Ford said. “He’s started some JV for us, but this was his first varsity start so, of course, he was going to be a little nervous. But by the second half there, he was starting to feel comfortable.”
Davis was the leading receiver in the win as he caught four balls from Nenni-Mills for 77 yards and two scores. Damron also made a nice one-handed grab for a 51-yard TD in the second half.
Freshman athlete Bryson Elia had another big game for the black-and-silver as he scored touchdowns three different ways.
Elia got the scoring started for Tug with a 77-yard punt return early in the first. He then scored on a 5-yard run in the third quarter and then passed for a 30-yard touchdown in the fourth when he hit Gavin Fitzpatrick for a 30-yard touchdown, which proved to be the Panthers’ final score.
Elia finished with 36 yards rushing on four carries and completed 2-3 passes for 46 more yards. Adam Slone led the Panthers in rushing with 69 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries.
Slone also added six tackles on the defensive side for Tug while Elia had three stops and picked off a pass in the first half. Dakoda Walker and Ashton Davis were each credited with a fumble recovery.
After the game, coach Ford said his team’s celebration for the win over Westside would be short-lived as they prepare to get back to work for arguably their biggest game of the season when they host Man Friday night.
“Big-time playoff implications, if we can win these next two we’re hosting a playoff game, and if we win next week we’re punching our ticket,” Ford said. “It’s Man, that’s enough said. Man is one of the biggest rival games we’ve got — them and Tolsia. That’s one we’ve had written on the board all year long, now it’s time to put up or shut up.”
Man will be well rested coming into the contest as they were on a bye week this week. Tug Valley leads the all-time series with the Hillbillies 7-4, but Man won 35-28 a year ago.
Score by Quarters
WHS (2-6): 0 0 8 6 — 14
TVHS (6-2): 12 12 19 6 — 49
TV: Bryson Elia 77-yard punt return (Aiden Bosserman PAT no good)
TV: Adam Slone 12-yard run (Bosserman PAT no good)
TV: Jaxon Nenni-Mills 11-yard pass to Ashton Davis (Caleb Totten PAT no good)
TV: Slone 5-yard run (Totten PAT no good)
W: Kaiden Cance 60-yard pass to Ivan Clay (Vance run)
TV: Elia 5-yard run (Totten PAT good)
TV: Nenni-Mills 51-yard pass to Riley Damron (Totten PAT no good)
TV: Nenni-Mills 30-yard pass to Davis (Totten PAT no good)
TV: Elia 30-yard pass to Gavin Fitzpatrick (Bosserman PAT no good)
W: Brody Cline 20-yard run (run failed)