Panthers fall short in 6A semifinals

Cooper Chadwick

The Panthers football season ended tonight with a devastating 28-23 loss to Manhattan in the Class 6A semifinals. 

The Panthers had been shooting for an eighth straight trip to the 6A finals.

Derby, which also lost to Manhattan in the season’s opening game, got an early fumble recovery by sophomore Easton Splane, and senior running back Dylan Edwards scored soon after for the 7-0 first quarter lead. 

Early in the second quarter Edwards scored again to go up 13-0 in the bitter cold at Manhattan.

Hanging onto a 13-7 lead in the final seconds of the first half, Edwards scored a touchdown but it was negated due to a penalty. That allowed junior kicker Grady Jesseph to attempt – and hit – a 34-yard field goal with no time left on the clock for the 16-7 halftime lead.

But the second half was all Manhattan. 

Manhattan took a 21-16 lead.

The Panthers lost senior quarterback Brock Zerger to a broken fibula in the quarterfinals. He had surgery on Tuesday.

Junior Braxton Clark started in place of Zerger, but in the second half Easton Splane got an interception and then replaced Clark. Even freshman Khrystian Dorsey got in for a play.

But with Derby trailing 28-16 with 5:22 to go, Edwards came in at quarterback and gave the Panthers some life with a touchdown to get within 28-23. 

But it wasn’t enough.

The Panthers finished their season with a 9-3 record.