Mehlville Panthers improve record to 5-1 with win over ‘talented’ Kirkwood Pioneers

By Jeff Stalhut

It took some time to get things rolling, but eventually the Mehlville Panthers’ offense took off last weekend and they knocked off the Kirkwood Pioneers, 27-19 in a battle of Suburban West football rivals.

In the first half both teams got stellar play from their defensive units, and the Panthers carried a slim 6-0 advantage into halftime.

The second half was a different story, though, as the Panthers’ offense opened up and outscored Kirkwood 21-19 to improve Mehlville’s record to 5-1 on the season. Kirkwood dropped to 3-2.

Mehlville Coach Gary Heyde told the Call that this was just a case of two good defenses breaking one another down.

“Kirkwood is a very talented team, and this was a big win for us,” Heyde said. “The first half was a defensive battle. Both teams had a hard time moving the ball, but we run a fast-paced offense and Kirkwood runs no huddle, so I think the defenses just wore down in the second half.”

The Panthers wore down the Kirkwood defensive unit thanks in part to solid games from quarterback Ronald Roberts and fullback John Cunningham, both of whom broke through with big plays in the game’s final 24 minutes.

Roberts, who scored the Panthers only first-half points on a one-yard touchdown run, hit Darnell Trice for an 85-yard touchdown pass early in the second half.

Later in the third quarter, Cunningham put Mehlville in control when he ran for a 28-yard touchdown that made the score 20-6 in favor or the Panthers.

Cunningham, who later scored on a 3-yard run, was solid all night for the Panthers.

“He had a big week,” Heyde said. “He was inducted into the National Honor Society earlier in the week, and he’s playing very well.”

Overall, Cunningham would rack up 69 rushing yards for two touchdowns.

That’s not too bad for a former wideout.

“He plays strong safety on defense, and he used to be a receiver,” Heyde said of Cunningham. “But we wanted to move him to fullback this year when he started getting bigger. We felt his abilities fit better there, and he’s getting better and better.”

Next up for Mehlville are the 0-6 Fox Warriors, who have been struggling to just put players on the field. Heyde will have the Panthers ready to go, but the Warriors’ struggles are not any mystery.

“We will be ready to go for them, but it is really an opportunity to kind of prepare for CBC,” he said. “Fox is really having a tough time, and with CBC there as our first district game, we have to take advantage and use some of our time to be ready for them.”

That’s not to say Heyde and the Panthers will look past Fox, but it is merely a testament to the problems the Warriors are having with very few players on the team.

Mehlville simply outclasses them and can therefore use a little of their time this week to think about the tough game ahead with CBC.

Mehlville and Fox will play at 7 p.m. Friday at Fox High School, 751 Jeffco Blvd.