Placed in nearly the exact same spot Maumee was last season, it had a two-touchdown lead against Bowsher at halftime.
The Panthers made it stick this time.
Quarterback Brian Utter racked up more than 400 yards of total offense and three touchdowns as Maumee held off a late Bowsher charge for a 37-28 road victory to open the season Friday night.
“This year, we were up 13 points and we did not let it happen again. We came together, and everything was just perfect,” Utter said. “Our blocking, our running — everything just gelled together.”
Maumee squandered its halftime lead last season, but the Panthers never trailed Friday.
Utter hit Brian Autry for a 55-yard touchdown pass on the third play from scrimmage, then Utter scored the two-point conversion after the extra point attempt went awry.
It was a telling sign of the night to come for Utter.
He broke a 77-yard touchdown run later in the first quarter and finished with 264 rushing yards on 22 carries. The Panthers were effective with their zone read against Bowsher, which was playing without star linebacker Phoenix Reid, who injured his ACL.
“That hurt, and that’s what showed tonight. We’re still a work in progress as far as getting these kids in the right spots and stepping up to play,” Bowsher coach Craig Lubinski said.
Bowsher had two huge plays that looked to change the tide of the game, only to be turned away on both occasions.
Tim Booth ran for a 56-yard touchdown to cut the Maumee lead to 15-8 in the second quarter. However, Maumee receiver Zak Mathias was standing in the end zone 11 seconds later after he took the ensuing kickoff 79 yards for a touchdown. In a flash, Maumee again had a two-score lead.
The Rebels blocked a Maumee field goal in the fourth quarter and William Richburg returned it 67 yards for a score, yet after forcing a punt, Bowsher went three and out.
Maumee drove 60 yards on its next drive for the game-clinching touchdown, a welcome sign after last season’s 2-8 mark.
“We didn’t want to have a 2-8 season,” Utter said. “That was the one thing we did not want to have again. We came out here, and we didn’t.”
Bowsher quarterback Chris Sudduth went 14 for 26 for 146 yards passing and one touchdown.
Booth finished with 44 yards and two touchdowns.
Maumee ran up nearly 500 yards of total offense against the Rebels, who are considered the favorite to win the City League.
Even more reassuring to the Panthers was how they protected their lead. After losing its lead last season, the Panthers made a number of key plays — including Austin Hazard’s two onside kick recoveries — to stay in the lead for a season-opening win.
“It was really good for us to come out here in Week 1 and play a really good football team that didn’t quit, and see our kids persevere,” Maumee coach Marc Gibson said. “It was a great, great thing to see.”