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Ruppenthal powers Panthers' comeback

October 23, 2004|by BILL STERNER/Staff Correspondent

HANCOCK - The Hancock football team decided to wait until the second half of its Homecoming game against Baltimore Lutheran to wake up the overflow crowd at Paul Imphong Field on Friday night.

When the Panthers finally brought the faithful to their feet, they did it in style.

Hancock's offense turned from a junker into a Hummer behind the substantial rumble seat of 6-foot-2 230-pound fullback Josh Ruppenthal as the Panthers overcame Baltimore Lutheran, 28-23.

Ruppenthal powered in three fourth-quarter touchdowns to cap a 33-carry, 159-yard performance that overshadowed a heroic passing effort by Saints quarterbck Adam Sauter, who finished with 239 yards.

The Panthers (7-1) have won three in a row since opening October with a loss to Berkeley Springs.

"This was definitely a wake-up call for all of us," Ruppenthal said. "The coaches have been warning us all week not to become complacent with our game. I think (Baltimore Lutheran) made us step back and evaluate."

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Baltimore Lutheran (2-6) put the Panthers in an unfamiliar position early in the second half when Nick Badolsto took a lateral from Tafaria Griffiths, completing a 49-yard, hook-and-lateral play to put the Saints up, 10-7. The points were the first given up by the Hancock defense in the second half this season.

"I wasn't sure how we would react," Hancock coach John Blake said. "We talked about what we would do when the inevitable happened ... but I think it hurt us more than we wanted to admit."

Hancock slogged through the remainder of the third quarter and were stunned early in the fourth quarter as Sauter rolled right and found Griffiths alone for a 29-yard touchdown pass.

The kick was wide, leaving Hancock down 16-7 with just more than eight minutes remaining.

"We got together after that," Ruppenthal said. "I got a little eye contact in our huddle and we decided we would play this out."

What the Panthers did will most likely inspire them down the stretch.

Ruppenthal finished the next Hancock drive, diving in from the 3-yard line after carrying the ball 11 times in the drive.

A Saints punt gave the Panthers the ball back and Ruppenthal scored again, capping a 10-play, 54-yard drive to give Hancock the lead with just over five minutes left. The Panthers fullback punched in his final touchdown, his fourth of the evening, with just less than 90 seconds left, breaking three tackles from 2 yards out.

"This is a good tired," Ruppenthal said. "They pounded on me pretty good but it feels great right now."

Baltimore Lutheran added a late score on a 62-yard pass to Travis Facinoli, but an out-of-bounds onside kick allowed Hancock to run out the clock.

"I think (Baltimore Lutheran) shot themselves in the foot several times with penalties," Blake said. "But this game tonight was a character builder for us.

"I am proud of this team," Blake added. "And I am happy for all those people who support us."

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