Football Panthers fall to Ritenour; will face Flyers Friday night

By Robert Chalupny

Despite the Mehlville Senior High School football team suffering its second consecutive loss Friday night, Panthers fans have a few legitimate reasons to be encouraged.

Mehlville fell 32-14 to Ritenour, but the Panthers’ spirited performance against the Huskies was a huge improvement over the product they brought to the field in their season opener against Chaminade, according to Mehlville head coach Kent Heinemann.

“I think there was a little sense of urgency from the beginning. We played well. We came together as a team. We were in it, up until the very end,” he told the Call. “I mean, last week it was something good would happen and then a couple bad things would happen and we were playing catch-up almost the entire game …

“This week, our kids were in it and they were fighting and they were playing hard — just didn’t get it done.”

Ritenour got on the scoreboard early in the first quarter at the 6:53 mark, but Mehlville answered back with a 39-yard touchdown run by Rodney Lunon at 2:22, giving the Panthers a 7-6 lead.

“It was kind of a bobbled handoff, and it took a nice little bounce into our hands … He made a really athletic play and scored a really big touchdown for us,” Heinemann said of Lunon’s touchdown.

That lead didn’t last long, though, and it was the only lead of the game for the Panthers as Ritenour plotted another one with just :43 seconds left in the first quarter. The Huskies also had a two-point conversion to go up by seven.

Mehlville’s Xzavier Judson tied the game in the second quarter with a two-yard touchdown run set up by quarterback Matt Mik. Mik had a long run on the previous series on a scramble around midfield.

The Panthers headed to their home locker room at halftime tied at 14, but they couldn’t muster any more points.

Ritenour did, however, scoring 18 more points in the second half.

“I think the kids’ effort was definitely there. We had a lot more positives this week. It was definitely a step in the right direction. We’re just not quite there yet,” Heinemann said.

Besides doubling their offensive production from week one, Mehlville’ defense gave up significantly fewer points in their second showing. The team gave up 50 points in the opener against Chaminade.

“I thought our defense played really tough,” Heinemann said. “We put ourselves in some predicaments. You know, it was at least twice we had them third and long and thinking, ‘OK, we’re going to get a stop here and we’re going to get the ball back.’ And we’d give up the big play.

“And instead of hanging their heads, they got right back up and went right back out there and played hard defense … Like I said, our effort was really good tonight. I’m really proud of the kids. They played hard all the way up to the end.”

The Panthers will meet longtime rival Lindbergh Friday night. Heinemann said he expects a strong showing from both teams because of the history of the rivalry, coupled with the fact that both squads will be looking for their first win of the season.

“Historically, since I’ve been at Mehlville, even as a lower-level coach, we’ve always played Lindbergh tough and they’ve always played us tough,” Heinemann said. “I know it will be a good game. That’s one of the best-coached teams around. Tom Beauchamp always has a great team. So we’re going to get a good week of practice and get after the Flyers.”