The celebration in the Springboro locker room was loud and long. No doubt it could be heard through the thick cinder-block walls beneath Wayne’s Heidkamp Stadium.
Yes, the unbeaten Panthers are making a lot of noise in the new-look Greater Western Ohio Conference with senior and junior classes that have seen this season coming.
»RELATED: Week 4 scores, boxscores
»RELATED: Week 4 roundup
“This is a team that everybody’s been talking about since we were kids,” said junior Moise Armbruster, the Panthers’ leading rusher.
After a 42-27 victory Friday night over Wayne, they will be talking more. Coming off two 5-5 seasons that ended a playoff streak of five years, the Panthers are 4-0. They host Miamisburg next week before difficult tests against Northmont and Springfield.
Despite last year’s .500 record, head coach Ryan Wilhite credits that team with establishing the culture this year’s team is embracing.
“We called it New Blue and this year is the 2.0 version,” he said. “And 2.0 has a bit of a killer instinct to win the game.”
The Panthers showed that instinct from the start against Wayne, which is an uncharacteristic 0-4 against a killer schedule. Springboro led 28-0 at halftime and took advantage of three Wayne turnovers. The Warriors set the Panthers up for a 19-yard touchdown drive and later fumbled at the Panthers’ 1-yard line.
“When you’re playing a good team something’s going to swing the momentum one way or the other, and the first half the turnovers and capitalizing on them was for us,” Wilhite said.
Armbruster scored on runs of 15 and 4 yards and rushed for 111 of his 162 yards in the half. Mikey Appel threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Willieon Yates and Timmy Keseday scored on a five-yard run. Landon Palmer and Appel share quarterback duties with Palmer getting most of the snaps. They combined to be 14 of 23 for 126 yards.
“We have a lot of guys doing a lot of things for us, but the best thing about that statement is that they all contribute selflessly,” Wilhite said. “We have zero issues on our team with who gets the credit. It’s that we win.”
Considering the final score, the most surprising stat is that Wayne outgained Springboro 534 to 338. Five turnovers — two of them setting up short scoring drives for the Panthers — were Wayne’s undoing. Quarterback Cam Fancher passed for 308 yards and rushed for 83, and Austin Mullins caught six passes for 146 yards.
“Their quarterback is so good,” Wilhite said. “He’s such a good athlete back there.”
Fancher and friends got Wayne fans thinking a comeback might happen. Touchdown runs by Tyler Dorsey and Devin Nelson cut the Springboro lead to 28-14 with 2:46 left in the third quarter. But Springboro grabbed the momentum back with a long scoring drive keyed by several strong runs over the right side by Armbruster.
“I had made a bad play, and that really made me mad,” Armbruster said. “Next play I decided to be tougher, to be better and push myself.”
The Panthers put it on right tackle Rian Iiams and right guard Nick Buzzell to lead Armbruster down the field.
“The key for us was that we had proven to ourselves in the first half that we could run the football,” Wilhite said. “When you’re playing with a lead in the second half, it’s always key if you can run the football.”
That instinct is part of the New Blue 2.0 culture.
“If we didn’t fight,” Armbruster said, “they could’ve beat us.”
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