Cheltenham going back to drawing board after loss to CB East

BUCKINGHAM — Cheltenham football coach Joe Gro knew his team was going to have a lot of growing pains this season.

But even he wasn’t expecting things to start out this way. The young Panthers, who boast just four seniors, started their season off rough in a 54-14 loss at Central Bucks East Saturday afternoon.

After losing most of its starters from a season ago, Cheltenham looked like an inexperienced team on East’s first drive. It was a preview of what else was to come.

“We were pretty ineffective everywhere,” Gro said. “Worse than that, we looked pretty uncoached. That’s disappointing. We have four seniors, I’ve been in dire straights before but four seniors is really the limit of it.”

East christened it’s gleaming new facility at 1st Lt. Colby Umbrell Field, so the Patriots came out extra galvanized. They wasted very little time, marching right down the field to score on the opening drive of the game, then made it a 14-0 lead one play after blocking a punt on Cheltenham’s first possession.

The Panthers did come right back with a score on a 3rd-and-17 when senior quarterback Branden Mack hit Akeem Browne for a 44-yard touchdown, but that was close as the game was going to get. The Temple-bound Mack threw for 131 yards and two scores, the bulk of it coming on an 83-yard TD to Matt Tuszl in the third quarter.

“We need to, as Coach Gro said, accept coaching better,” Tuszl said. “We need to be a lot more disciplined, we need to work a lot harder.”

Cheltenham made some plays toward the end of the game, but Tuszl was quick to point out they came against mostly CB East backups so he wasn’t ready to take too much from it. Gro said he saw a few young guys that got in the late stages of the game show they could play.

East added a third touchdown on the final play of the first quarter, then added a fourth two plays later after recovering a Cheltenham fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The Patriots took a 35-7 lead into the half.

“We thought we were going to play with them, I honestly did,” Gro said. “They did a lot of things and I thought we were picking it up a little bit. A lot of it falls back on me. I made some assumptions and what we did was my planning and it didn’t work. It’s got to be addressed and we start with me.”

Cheltenham’s ground game was ineffective with no back going over 30 yards and the longest gain of the day a 28-yard burst by Tuszl on a wide receiver reverse.

The Panthers’ second TD again came on a third down play, this time from their own 17 late in the third quarter. Tuszl managed to get behind everyone and Mack hit him with a bomb of a pass that the senior wideout was able to take the rest of the way to the house. While the two seniors, who also play on defense, did all they could, they’re going to need their teammates to catch up as quickly as possible.

“We have to really focus and accept coaching,” Tuszl said. “It’s a wake-up call. For everybody.”

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