STIGLER — It was billed as an intriguing intrastate match-up involving two of the top programs in the area.
However, Stigler set the tone early and built a big lead by the end of the first quarter. The Panthers remained undefeated on the season Thursday with a 56-14 win against Booneville, a game which was scheduled earlier in the week.
Here are four takeaways from the Panthers' win:
1. Offensive efficiency
The Panthers took the opening kickoff and needed just six plays to score in a drive which lasted less than two minutes.
Stigler then built a 20-0 lead in the first quarter and were up 34-0 early in the second quarter.
The Panthers ended up scoring touchdowns on all eight of their first-half possessions for a 56-7 advantage. They also had 430 total yards in that span.
"I wasn't counting, but I was happy with what I had seen," Stigler coach Chris Risenhoover said. "Our offense is tough to defend, and I'm sure the short week and preparation, they were probably seeing some stuff that they haven't seen in Arkansas, the way we spin the one back in the passing game to go along with a pretty strong run game.
"The main thing is, we were on fire. Obviously, when you score eight out of eight, that's pretty good stuff."
2. Two's company
An old football proverb states if a team has two quarterbacks, then it essentially has none.
That's not the case with Stigler, which effectively uses two quarterbacks, seniors Zane Oldham and Darren Manes.
The first four passes thrown by the Panthers all went for TDs. Oldham had the first three TD passes while Manes threw the fourth pass for a TD, a 50-yard strike to Grayson Gilmore to give Stigler a commanding 42-7 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Manes also ended up as the Panthers' leading rusher, going for 83 yards on six carries with a TD.
3. Speed "D"
While the Panthers have had prolific offenses in the past decade-plus under Risenhoover, they've also become a factor on the other side of the ball.
Booneville found that out the hard way, as the Bearcats weren't able to get things going against a Stigler defense loaded with speed.
Stigler forced three-and-outs on each of the Bearcats' opening three possessions. Booneville was held to 9 yards in the first quarter and had no first downs, while Stigler already had 10 first downs.
"Our main concern was them 15 and 16-play driving us, shortening the game and keeping our explosive offense in check," Risenhoover said. "But we came up with a great scheme. ... I was just happy with our kids' performance; they were pretty focused and glued in this week."
The Panthers also got two sacks and senior linebacker Bruce Engle, one of the top tacklers in the area, recovered a fumble which set up a Stigler touchdown.
"We were really good on defense last year and have been the last two or three years," Risenhoover said. "We've come a long way on that side of the football, but with Bruce Engle at linebacker and Vance Hamlin on the d-line, we've got the bodies and we've got the speed in the back end."
4. Learning to adjust
Booneville has been one team which has been heavily affected lately by the constant shuffling of schedules due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bearcats have played only one conference game all season and they've played non-conference games the entire month of October.
In that stretch, they've dropped two out of three games. Two weeks ago, they dropped a 42-35 decision at Warren in a game that was scheduled basically the day before.
Then last week, Booneville returned home to down Mayflower, 40-7, before playing Stigler in a game that was officially announced on Monday.
Up Next: Booneville (5-2) returns home next Friday to face Atkins while Stigler (7-0) is at home again next Friday to take on Locust Grove.