BY PEDRO VELAZCO
---- — PERU — Western’s football team set the tone early. The Panthers converted a fourth-and-one-yard-to-go situation from their own 44 on the fourth play from scrimmage at Peru on Friday night to get a first down and keep a drive going. Six plays later, the Panthers scored on an eight-yard Ben Lenahan run and the Western machine was warmed up and moving.
Western went on to score on its first five possessions en route to a 52-27 victory. The Panthers (5-1, 3-2 MIC) held Peru at arm’s length all night, going up 20-0 on the second play of the game before the host Bengal Tigers (4-2, 2-2 MIC) finally responded with points.
“That was the key. We were in a comfortable position,” Western coach Nate Andrews said. “If we don’t start off that strong, [with] that much intensity and physicality, it’s a really different ballgame because [Peru] made some great adjustments at halftime and got great angles on our defenders and gave us a lot of problems.”
After Lenahan’s score, Western got a three-yard TD run from Christian Glenn in the first quarter, then quarterback Drew Bellus found Kendal McDonald open for a 44-yard score in the opening minute of the second quarter for Western’s 20-0 lead.
“I liked the way we started the game and the physicality we brought,” Andrews said. “And I liked to see the passing game open up some of the offense.”
Peru struck on an eight-yard option run by Michael Richardson but Western scored twice more before halftime, first on a six-yard run by Lenahan and then on a 37-yard Bellus pass to Kyler Vail for a 32-8 advantage at the break. Western ran for 200 yards and Bellus completed three passes for 94 yards in the first half.
“They don’t hide what they do,” Peru coach Bob Prescott said. “They’re going to come downhill, they’re going to be aggressive, they’re going to try to impose their will on you.
“There were maybe two or three really long plays that they had, but everything else was just pound, pound, pound, make ‘em earn it, earn it, earn it and to their credit they did. Overall I thought our kids played hard, but they do a great job with the talent they have in getting the most out of what their talent is and being physical and aggressive.”
Peru scored instantly in the second half as Steven McBride took the kickoff 75 yards to start the third quarter. Again, Western responded with a touchdown on a weaving, bobbing 42-yard scamper from Glenn. Later in the fourth he had another TD run where he looked to be bottled up inside, only to escape with nimble moves en route to a 32-yard score.
Glenn finished with a game-high 117 yards on just nine carries. Also in the second half, Panther sophomore Min Park punched in a one-yard score to complete a breakout game. In his most extensive action of the season, Park ran for 112 yards on 20 carries. Lenahan added 92 yards on 16 totes. Bellus added 56 yards on the ground and 99 through the air, and Brooklyn Watters ran for 57 yards.
“I think the kids ran hard but i think we did a pretty nice job blocking up front,” Andrews said. His squad rushed for 430 yards.
Peru got a 39-yard option keeper run by quarterback Nolan Brimbury to score in the third quarter and added a three-yard Richardson run. The Bengals rushed for 198 yards with Brimbury gaining 69 and Richardson 68.