With a 10-4 turnover advantage through their first two games, it's apparent that the football hopes of the United Township Panthers lie in their ability to take the ball away and not give it up.
"We have to win the turnover battle, we have to win the field-position battle, we have to win the penalty battle," said UT coach Ron Litchfield. "We have to do all of that; we just do."
In the Panthers' home opener at Soule Bowl, it was Peoria Notre Dame that dominated all but an even distribution of flags, as the Irish rolled to a 40-8 victory on Friday night.
UT had the first turnover, a sack by Trevor May that he turned into a fumble recovery. However, the Panthers' initial drive turned out like the much of the rest of them. UT converted just seven first downs on the night, two of those in the first half.
"Our offense has to get better, it just does," Litchfield said. "We've got to get more consistent."
With that not happening against the Irish, the way PND dominated the turnover and field-position games led to the lopsided decision.
With the Irish up 7-0, PND's Anton Morris recovered a fumble that led to the first of two Michael Tschirn field goals (30 and 27 yards). One UT series later, PND's Colin Salander picked off a Nick Pearson pass at the UT 40 and darted 38 yards to the 2. That's where Austin Bienenman took it in to give the visitors a 16-0 lead.
It was more of a turnover plague in the second half for UT.
The Irish's Demarco Washington turned an interception into a 35-yard touchdown and Anton Morris fell on a blocked punt in the end zone to give the Irish a pair of easy scores in which UT's defense, which looked good throughout the night, couldn't be a factor.
"Defensively, we played hard," Litchfield said. "But when you have a blocked punt and give them the ball two times in the red zone, that's 20 points you're giving away. You're not going to win doing that."
PND had two big plays, a 54-yard run by Andy Shadid and a 51-yarder by Anthony Deceane. Both had just two carries in the game, and both led the Irish in rushing on the night.
Outside of those two runs, UT held the Irish to 141 yards on 39 carries. PND was 1-of-5 passing.
Since leading LaSalle-Peru 21-7 after one quarter last Friday, the Panthers were outscored 67-0 until they broke out of the offensive funk with :22 left in the third quarter. UT's Clayton Kelly scored from 3 yards out, with the short drive set up when PND's punter accepted a hike on a knee at the 22.
Kelly has scored UT's last four touchdowns, none longer than three yards. He led the Panthers in rushing vs. PND with 49 yards on 15 carries.
In his most extensive action of the season, running back Cody Vroman added 44 yards on 16 carries.
"Cody did a pretty good job. He's more of a north-south runner, which helps," Litchfield said.
The Panthers take a 1-2 record into the start of Western Big 6 Conference play next week. It doesn't get any easier, with UT traveling to Augustana College's Ericson Field to take on the state's Class 4A No. 1-ranked team, Alleman.
Today is Friday, May 24, the 144th day of 2013. There are 221 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: A military escort will be at the square at 9 a.m. tomorrow forthe funeral of Lieut. Joseph Eaton. The county judge is absent in Chicago, which willaccount for his not being in the procession. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Rock Island's City Council last night appropriated $95,000 forexpenses for the 1888 and 1889 fiscal year. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Mrs. F.W. Reimers last night was re-elected president of the RockIsland Musical Club at a meeting in the New Harper Hotel. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Seven members of Boy Scout Troop 21 got their Eagle badges lastnight. They were Ralph Hurt, Robert Nelson, Howard Schersten, Cecil Nelson, RobertFryxell, Clarence Stone and Rollin Hurt. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Mayor Morris Muhleman has resorted to a form letter in an effort toanswer objections to the wheel tax increase. "It was my hope that I could, in some way,restore the faith of the citizens in our city. In order to do this I knew I must face the factthat I would become very unpopular."All they are trying to do is protect the citizensproperty and build their town. 1988 -- 25 years ago: RICCA, the Rock Island County Council on Addictions, inconjunction with the Quad City Downs, will hold its annual "Night at the Races" June 2.The benefit "Night at the Races" will raise funds locally to assist in maintaining the twohalfway houses, New Hope Lodge (for women) and Beacon House (for men).