**ARTICLE BY JOSH LONGSTRETH**
Since 2010, the Ithaca Yellowjackets have been as close to football royalty as you can get. It’s a program that has gone 129-12 since 2010. The Standish Sterling Panthers have had sort of a different path. The Panthers had not made the playoffs since 2013, until last year. Last year was a different story for the Panthers. The Panthers made it to the state semis last year before losing a close one to Lansing Catholic Central. It was one of the best years in a decade for the Panthers. Ithaca, the perennial powers. Standish Sterling, the up and comer. Both were headed on a collision course Thursday night after both teams impressed in week 1. It was expected to be a great football game in the early season of 2022, and it lived up to that billing.
The Panthers had a chance to get things rolling early receiving the opening kickoff. Their first drive went into Ithaca territory until a touchdown was called back on a holding penalty. Ithaca took advantage forcing a sack on the next play by Brandon Pass. Ithaca would drive into Standish territory on their first drive. After it looked like the drive might stall after a tackle for loss pushed it to 4th down and 13, Ithaca QB Bronson Bupp would drop back and throw into double coverage. Some how, some way, sophomore Ryley White would haul a touchdown pass in over two defenders. Ithaca strikes first. A successful 2-point conversion would give them an 8-0 lead. It wouldn’t take long after when the Panthers would respond. After another touchdown was called back on this drive, the Panthers would punch it in a few players later making this an 8-6 game.
In the second quarter, Ithaca would open things up again. After a back and fourth drive Bupp would punch it in from 1-yard out. A failed PAT would make this a 14-6 game. The ensuing Panthers drive would be halted quickly on another Pass sack. Ithaca would get the ball at midfield on a shanked punt. It wouldn’t be long after until shifty Ithaca WR Charlie Martyn would get into the end zone from 13-yards out to give the Yellow Jackets a 20-6 lead. Just when it looked like Ithaca would take control of this game, the Panthers showed some urgency on their next drive. Junior RB Jacob Bartlett would break free and reach the end zone, cutting the Ithaca lead to 20-12. We had ourselves a dog fight. The Panthers would get right to work on defense on Ithaca’s next drive forcing a punt that would be blocked giving the Panthers great field position. Nothing would come of this as the Ithaca defense stood tall. Mason VanCamp would come up with a huge tackle for loss that would force a turnover on downs. This would go into halftime at 20-12.
Ithaca would get solid field position to start the second half until Bartlett would come up with another big play, this time on defense coming up with a sack that would give the ball back to the Panthers. The very next play, Ithaca would come up with a huge fumble recovery deep in Standish territory. Standish would force a 4th and 17 for Ithaca when Bupp would connect with Senior WR Ethan Hull on a perfectly placed 31-yard touchdown pass. Ithaca would regain control making it a 27-12 game. The Panthers next drive would halt forcing a punt. It was not all for not, however, as Nicholas Miksell would put Ithaca on their own 1-yard line. Standish would not go away. This is when QB Truman King would hit Senior WR Brayden Sullivan on a perfectly executed throwback screen. Sullivan would do the rest taking it all the way to make it a 27-18 game. Buckle up.
Ithaca would try and kill some clock early in the 4th when Panthers Junior, Tucker Rokosz, would come up with a huge interception. The Panthers would set up shop at midfield. They were able to put together another solid drive that was then capped off by King. After failed 2-point try it was now a one possession game at 27-24. This is when the Panthers would put a momentum shifting drive together before Bartlett would break free and there was no catching him. Panthers nation was in full effect as the visiting team would then take a 31-27. Ithaca would drive on the next possession even getting deep into Panthers territory but it was just all for not in this one. Standish Sterling stuns Ithaca late to take this one 31-27.
The Panthers, now at 2-0, will look to take their momentum into Bullock Creek next week to take on the Lancers. Bullock Creek sits at 1-1 after a loss to Fowlerville Thursday night. Ithaca will fall to 1-1 on the year. They will take on Nouvel Catholic Central next Friday. Nouvel comes in at 2-0 after a win over New Standard on Thursday night.