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Hatboro-Horsham takes down Cheltenham in SOL American finale

Cheltenham quarterback Branden Mack has been carrying the Panthers on his back and has been their best player all season long.

On Friday night Mack once again put on a herculean performance to try to capture another win for the Panthers to pull their record back to .500.

Mack threw for 47 yards, which could have been much higher, and ran 136 and four touchdowns but Mack’s brilliance wasn’t enough to carry Cheltenham to a win as it fell to Suburban One American opponent Hatboro-Horsham 42-28.

The less touted quarterback in Friday’s matchup was Hatboro-Horsham’s Casey Walsh. The physical comparison between Mack and Walsh, well really there is no compassion. Mack stands at 6-foot-5, Walsh 5-foot-10 on a good day. Athletically, Mack is one of if not the best athlete anytime he takes the field. The same cannot be said for Walsh.

Walsh, while not flashy, was absolutely spot on Friday night. He got into a groove early and never got out of it. The senior completed his first four passes of the contest before finishing the first half 10-for-15 for 194 yards and four touchdowns.

“Football is all about getting momentum on your side especially on offense,” Walsh said of his first half performance. “We started getting in a rhythm and receivers made plays.”

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Hatboro Horsham's Jordan Mason takes a hit from Cheltenham's Quran Smith Nov. 6, 2015.

Bob Raines–Montgomery Media Hatboro Horsham’s Jordan Mason takes a hit from Cheltenham’s Quran Smith Nov. 6, 2015.

Hatboro-Horsham was nearly unstoppable in the first half. The Hatters scored on five of six first half possessions as they racked up 334 yards of total offense in the first two quarters.

Although neither Walsh nor Hatboro-Horsham coach Mike Kapusta would admit to calling this Walsh’s best passing performance it’d be tough to find one better as he alluded a formidable Cheltenham pass rush all night to complete 16-21 passes for 268 yards and five touchdowns. Walsh also found six different Hatter receivers although his Friday night was Jordan Lynch as the two hooked up five times for 68 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s just such a great player, such a hard competitor,” Kapusta said of Walsh. “He played his butt off tonight, I’m really proud of him.”

“He’s a beautiful player,” Cheltenham coach Joe Gro said of Walsh. “For three years he’s been a pain in my [butt], he’s a good player, he does a beautiful job, he manages the [game]. He was wrapped up five times and got first downs. He’s a special to his team as Branden is to mine.”

Despite the offense efficiency demonstrated by the Hatters the game was still in doubt as halftime as the Panthers trailed by only 14, 35-21, at the half thanks to 252 yards of total offense in the first half, the majority of the coming from Mack and 131 yards rushing from junior running back Yasim Abdul-Haqq.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Hatboro Horsham's Adam Suder tries to break through the Cheltenham defense Nov. 6, 2015.

Bob Raines–Montgomery Media Hatboro Horsham’s Adam Suder tries to break through the Cheltenham defense Nov. 6, 2015.

“We can’t play defense like that and give up [that many points],” Cheltenham coach Joe Gro said. “I was really disappointed defensively.”

Just as most expected the game turned into a defense battle in the second half as both teams got their only scores on their first possessions of the fourth quarter, preserving the two score win for Hatboro-Horsham.

Cheltenham has been an impossible team to get a read on this season. Most of the season the Panthers have failed to have an adequate complement to Mack. Abdul-Haqq had 162 yards on 18 carries Friday, after running for 129 a couple weeks ago against Wissahickon.

The Panther’s have killed themselves with penalties this year. Friday saw the Panthers commit only two non-special teams penalties for 20 yards. The Panthers did have a couple turnovers late and more than couple dropped passes that could have big gains but Cheltenham remains a hard team to figure out.

“I tell them, we’re not good enough to make mistakes,” Gro said. “We dropped three, not necessarily touchdowns, but three really, really long passes that should have been caught. That’s frustrating.”

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