But there was no storybook ending for the Panthers football team. Freedom junior quarterback Dante Mayes stole the show, throwing for 172 yards and four touchdown passes in a 42-6 win over Antioch. Mayes used not only his arm, but his quick feet, dodging an aggressive Panther pass rush.
Mayes spread the ball around, throwing touchdown passes to senior Stephen Rodriguez (twice), junior Nenwon Gbilia and senior Darrell Daniels. Rodriguez was the game’s leading receiver, finishing with 93 yards on four catches, including touchdowns of 26 and 25 yards.
Senior lineman Mitchel Silva led the Falcons (6-1, 1-1 Bay Valley Athletic League) defensively, finishing with eight tackles and one sack. Rodriguez, senior linebacker Frank Cisneros and junior lineman Bobby Montgomery each contributed five tackles. Sophomore halfback Joe Mixon carried the ball 15 times, accumulating 53 yards and one touchdown.
The win was important for the Falcons, who were looking for a way to rebound after a tough loss to defending league champion Pittsburg last week.
“I think it was a good way to bounce back,” Mayes said. “It’s a big step ahead of where we were.”
Freedom came out fairly hot, scoring in the first quarter on a 21-yard pass from Mayes to Gbilia to make it 7-0. The Falcons doubled their advantage over Antioch (5-2, 0-2 BVAL) with roughly five minutes remaining in the half on an impressive connection from Mayes to Daniels for 16 yards. Mayes scrambled around, evading the grasp of Panthers defenders before finding Daniels at about the 5-yard line. Daniels broke a couple tackles and twisted to stay in bounds for the score.
Mayes threw his third touchdown pass four minutes later, this time to Rodriguez. Antioch appeared to get new life late in the second quarter after senior receiver Josh Oseguera expertly plucked a tipped ball for a 35-yard gain. On the next play, however, Panthers senior quarterback Troy Amate was picked off by Rodriguez in the end zone.
The Falcons continued their scoring barrage in the second half on a six yard run early in the third quarter by Mixon.
“When they keep the ball on the field, it makes it so we don’t have to stay out there and everyone does their thing; we get the win,” Silva said.
Midway through the quarter, Antioch got a prime chance to score on a fourth-and-inches play on the Freedom 2-yard line. But the snap went over Amate’s head for a 20-yard loss.
The Panthers put up a crooked number with roughly four minutes remaining in the third quarter on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Amate to Oseguera, who finished with 85 receiving yards. Amate went 16-for-28 passing for 189 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Antioch was also forced to adjust to injuries all night – five players got banged up and missed time on the field. Senior linebacker Anthony Borelli led the Panthers defensively with seven tackles.
“We had a few plays to get us back into it and we kept making mistakes,” Antioch head coach John Lucido said. “We just dug ourselves a big hole early on, missing tackles, third-and-longs, fourth-and-longs and we gave up a lot of big plays.”
The Falcons scored twice more in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
Freedom continues its BVAL schedule next week when it travels to Deer Valley. The Wolverines on Friday came back to beat Pittsburg – the one loss on the Falcons’ schedule – in overtime. Antioch is slated to face Liberty on the Lions’ homecoming night.
Freedom’s JV team also boasts a 6-1 mark after a big 26-14 victory over Antioch on Friday. Zach Sutton, Kristian Simmons, Nick Perry and Daniel Shepperd, who was responsible for a pick-six, led the Falcons defensively.
Head coach Don Birk praised the efforts of running backs Aaron Mullins and Eddie Martinez, plus signal caller Nate Mallett.
“It was good for us to come back,” Birk said. “I feel we played pretty well.”