Posted Online: Oct. 05, 2012, 11:34 pm

After rough start, Panthers show improvement

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By Daniel Makarewicz, danmak@qconline.com

Even in defeat, United Township senior football player Clayton Kelly carries hope.

At this point in the season, that's all the Panthers have.

Another loss -- a 51-20 Western Big 6 Conference setback to Quincy at the Soule Bowl on Friday night -- extended UT's winless streak to six games. Rather than walk away angry on this chilly evening, Kelly stood near the end zone and kept his head high and spirits up, turning all his attention on one positive that he felt overshadowed the outcome.

"We're there," Kelly said. "We played hard."

Kelly believes the work will be rewarded.

"Each game," Kelly said, "we're getting better."

Along the way, the Panthers (1-6, 0-4 Big 6) showed improvements on the ground and through the passing game. Cody Vroman ran for a game-high 212 yards on 33 carries and Kelly added 89 yards rushing yards.

UT tallied a season-best 439 yards of offense, using a second-quarter fake-punt-turned-50-yard touchdown pass from Dalton Oakes to Dominique Parks to set the tone.

"You've got to keep fighting," said Kelly, who scored on a 15-yard run late in the fourth quarter. "We fought hard until the end."

Moral victories, though, could not overcame a rushing defense that allowed 439 yards. Quincy (3-4, 1-3), which ended a three-game losing streak, had seven plays go for 20 yards or more and opened their first offensive drive with a 68-yard touchdown run from Jordan Osborne.

Two plays into the game, Quincy held a 6-0 lead.

"Not great. It can't make you feel good," UT coach Ron Litchfield said. "We've got to come out and play better."

Running through and around the UT defense, the Blue Devils averaged nearly 10 yards per carry. Osborne needed eight rushes to reach a career-high 180 yards and four touchdowns. Two of Osborne's carries covered at least 55 yards.

Malique Robbins added 126 yards on 10 carries.

"They handled their business," Quincy coach Rick Little said.

On the other end, UT is hoping to finish their business that starts on the practice field.

"Our kids show up and they want to get better and they want to do well. They want to please people," Litchfield said. "Our kids care. They really do. We've just got to have some success."

A first step toward progress was the fake punt in the second quarter. Lining up at midfield, Oakes took the snap and threw to Parks running near the right hash. Parks caught to ball, turned to the outside, beat two defenders and reached the end zone with a late stretch at the goal line.

The 50-yard strike that cut UT's deficit to 21-6 midway through the second quarter was its longest play on the night.

"I don't know how to explain it. That was a great play," Kelly said. "We ran it correctly. We did the right thing."

Talking about that score brought a smile to Kelly's face. He knows the Panthers have some magic that could be exposed in the next two weeks.

Right now, that's what keeps UT going.

"We're going to push until the end of the season," Kelly said. "I'm trying to set an example for the younger guys. We just need to get better. I want to see UT succeed."