Panthers clinch district playoffs

By Jeff Stalhut

In their final regular season game of the year, the Mehlville Panthers played a dominating second half en route to a 41-19 win over St. Louis University High School.

And in doing so clinched the Class 6 District 3 championship and will compete in the state quarterfinals next weekend.

Quarterback Ronald Roberts threw for 196 yards and three touchdown passes while five players combined to rush for 202 yards in one of the most balanced attacks the Panthers have used all season.

Coach Gary Heyde knew the Panthers would be able to use both the run and the pass against SLUH to get the job done.

“We came in figuring we were going to throw some, we just weren’t sure how much,” he said. “Early on they were playing the run pretty tough, so we knew we had to pass.”

Roberts was both efficient and effective for Mehlville, accumulating nearly 200 yards in the air on only eight completions.

He threw touchdown passes of 53 (to Darnell Trice), 37 (James Fischer) and 19 yards (Rickey Giles) and ran 10 yards for another in helping the Panthers come back from a 19-14 halftime deficit. Giles, who led the Panthers in rushing with 74 yards on the ground, also ran for a six-yard touchdown.

In the second half, Mehlville outscored SLUH 27-0, but despite all of the outstanding play on the offensive side of the ball, it was the Mehlville defense that really stepped up in the final 24 minutes.

“The first half was a problem because they kept throwing and we struggled with a mismatch,” Heyde told the Call. “We had a hard time with it, but we made some changes in the second half to match up better. We really kept them from gaining too many yards in the second half.”

The regular season and district now behind them, the 9-1 Panthers now turn their attention to the Class 6 quarterfinals, where they will take on the 7-3 Hazelwood Central Hawks.

The Hawks, who emerged from one of the worst districts in the state that included McCluer, DeSmet and Pattonville — these three teams combined for one win prior to districts — are sort of flying under the radar, but are not necessarily going to be an easy game for Mehlville.

“They’ve got some good athletes over there,” said Heyde who, as of press time, had not yet thoroughly gone through his scouting reports for Hazelwood Central. “They’ve been playing pretty good football, and we’ll take a look at them on Saturday” (last weekend, Nov. 8 against McCluer).

Other Class 6 quarterfinalists include Kirkwood and Lindbergh from the east side of the state, who play one another on Saturday with the winner playing the survivor of Mehlville and Hazelwood Central. In the western half of the state, Blue Springs (10-0), Rockhurst (8-2), Hickman (7-3) and Zumwalt West (4-6) also have advanced.

The game between Hazelwood Central and Mehlville is at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Mehlville Senior High School, 3200 Lemay Ferry Road.