Football Tigers roll past Panthers 34-17 for first 2011 win in front of home crowd

Mehlville High football team to focus on the fundamentals.

By ROBERT CHALUPNY

Cars lined the streets of surrounding neighborhoods, players’ names and numbers were plastered along the sidewalks in front of Oakville Senior High School and thousands of fans jammed the stands, filling the crisp fall air with energy as the Tigers hosted the Mehlville Panthers for the homecoming football game.

The stakes couldn’t have been any higher as these rival teams, separated by only a couple of miles, squared off Friday night with identical 1-2 records and something to prove — both to themselves and to their fans. Both clubs were looking down the barrel at a .500 record approaching the midway point of the season, but it was the Tigers who came up with the win as they rolled past the Panthers 34-17.

The victory was the Tigers’ first win at home in three attempts this season.

Oakville started the scoring with a 25-yard field goal by Andrew Bick with 4:17 remaining in the first quarter. The Tigers added 13 more points in the second with touchdowns by quarterback Andy Oliver and Moe LaGrand.

Then with three seconds left in the half, Mehlville’s Brandon Zufall kicked a 33-yard field goal to put the Panthers on the board.

The Tigers came out of the locker room with a bang to start the second half. Jaron Henderson opened up with a touchdown on a 53-yard pass from Oliver. After that, it was Mehlville’s turn as the Panthers scored two consecutive touchdowns — one by Zufall and the other by Dan Dixon.

However, Henderson struck again for his second touchdown in the third quarter.

Oakville’s Brendan Jost finished it off in the fourth quarter with one more touchdown.

Oakville head coach Arlee Conners said it was his team’s improvement that brought home the win.

“I thought we did a better job up front. That was the main thing,” Conners said. “Last week (Sept. 9), we weren’t on the field a lot and when we were on the field, we gave up like six sacks … Tonight we fixed those problems and we were getting the ball outside to the receivers and they made some big plays for us.”

Mehlville head coach Eric Meyer said his team simply made too many mistakes and credited Oakville for playing a good game.

“They made some big plays and we just couldn’t stop them on a couple drives,” he said. “We made too many mistakes. You can’t beat a team when you make that many mistakes. Oakville played better than we did tonight and they deserve to win.”

Conners said his squad played its best game of the season and hopes to use it as a building block for continued success.

“I would say so far that that was the best game they’ve played,” he said. “I thought we definitely looked very diverse on offense and I thought on defense they held them down for most of the game.”

But he cautioned, “Don’t be satisfied with where we are at. I thought we played a good game. At the same time, we can play better and that’s the message that we’re driving.”

The Tigers will need to continue to improve as they won’t face any weak opponents and will play their next four games on the road, starting with Francis Howell North on Friday.

They will head to De Smet, Lafayette and Fox before coming home to close the season against Northwest and Eureka.

On the other hand, the Panthers, now 1-3, will look to make up some of that ground with three of their next four games being played in front of a home crowd starting with Fox on Friday.

“You hope you play better at home,” Meyer told the Call. “We just need to figure things out and get it going.”

Meyer said his players need to come together and work on the fundamentals.

“We need to tackle better. We need to turn the ball over less,” he said. “We have to play better. If we don’t play better, we are going to struggle.”