CHATHAM —Chatham coach Rich Sitzer was all smiles postgame, and justifiably so. The Panthers have outscored their opponents 89-0 and improved to 2-0 with a 54-0 victory over Coxsackie-Athens Friday night.
"We cleaned up some mistakes that we had last week, we had a lot of penalties, some blocking assignments that were missed, there were some things we worked hard on coverage-wise all week," Sitzer said. "We had one mistake, that long ball that they got on us, but other than that our corners stepped up and played well."
The Chatham defense started strong early, forcing a Coxsackie-Athens quarterback Joe Natobartolo to fumble on the second play from scrimmage and turning that into a quick seven points, with tailback Triston Schermerhorn plunging up the gut for a three-yard touchdown.
After the turnover, the Indians offense gained some momentum and marched down the field, headlined by a 37-yard pass down the sideline from Nartobartolo to receiver Timmy Simmons.
At the 21-yard line, the Indians offense sputtered as the Chatham defense bent, but did not break, forcing a turnover on downs and taking over offensively at the 20-yard line.
The Chatham offense went back to work and gashed the Indians defense with a consistent running attack.
After a holding call, Schermerhorn took a carry for 17 yards and two players later Quinten Kastner took a jet sweep 31 yards up the sideline, setting the Panthers up in Coxsackie territory. From there it took the Panthers only two plays to find paydirt, with Jayson Williams surging up the gut and finding daylight for a 30-yard rushing touchdown. Chatham converted a two-point attempt to take a 15-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Indians coughed the ball up for their second turnover of the first quarter, giving Chatham the ball at the 19-yard line, up two scores.
The Panthers wasted little time finding the end zone, taking five plays and the drive finished with quarterback Kaleb Taylor finding Jayshaun Williams in the flat for a four-yard passing touchdown, putting the Panthers up 22-0 heading into the second quarter.
Coxsackie-Athens got the ball to open the second quarter, but failed to put together a drive, with the Chatham defense stymieing them to no yards and a punt.
Backed up at the 20-yard line, Chatham nearly struck on a 80-yard touchdown pass from Taylor to a wide-open Jayson Williams, however, he was tripped up and the Indians were called for pass interference giving the Panthers the ball at the 37. From there, Schermerhorn took over, going 63-yards for his second rushing touchdown of the game, giving the Panthers a 29-0 lead.
The Indians got the ball back with coach Padric Bailey hoping his offense can gain some momentum against a stingy Chatham defense, but the Indians were forced to punt once again, giving Chatham the ball at the 49-yard line.
In the first play of their fifth drive, Taylor dropped back and found Jayshaun Williams down the sideline for a 41-yard strike, setting the Panthers up at the 10-yard line. From there, the senior quarterback tossed a seven-yard touchdown to Schermerhorn to give Chatham a 35-0 lead.
Things continue to not go in favor of the Indians, with the ball back looking to get something going before the half, on 3rd-and-7, Nartobartolo dropped back and threw a pass intended for Jameson Brockett, but was overthrown and intercepted by Kaleb Taylor and returned to the nine-yard line for a 24-yard return.
Chatham used the plus field position, with Taylor calling is own number and scrambling for a nine-yard touchdown, giving the Panthers a 42-0 leading heading into the half.
The Panthers outgained the Indians 237-65 in the first half, and Chatham's dominance on both sides of the ball continued in the second half.
Receiving the ball in the second half, Chatham started their drive at the 47-yard line and methodically drove down the field, using the entire 3rd quarter to find the end zone, with Hunter Scheriff plunging up the gut for a 3-yard score, giving the Panthers a 48-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Indians' receiver Timmy Simmons took it 86 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back after a holding call.
Coxsackie-Athens tried to prevent a shutout, driving all the way to the Chatham 40-yard line, but on 3rd-and-11 Notarbartolo tossed his second interception of the game, once again to Kaleb Taylor, who returned it 25 yards.
Chatham scored one more touchdown before the end of regulation, a five-yard scamper by Jayshaun Williams, giving Chatham the 54-0 victory.
Schermerhorn continues to dominate the ground game for the Panthers, leading all rushers with 88 yards off five carries and two touchdowns. He also hauled in a seven-yard touchdown.
"We knew last season what he was going to have, he was just behind so many guys, had his older brother in front of him, and I think this year him realizing that he can step up and be the man has made all the difference, and he's played with confidence, played with heart, and he works hard every play," Sitzer said of Schermerhorn.
Taylor finished the game 4-7 for 70 yards and two touchdowns, he also ran for 10 yards and a score. Defensively, he finished with two interceptions and now has three on the season.
For Coxsackie-Athens, Notarbartolo led the way going 5-12 for 45 yards and two interceptions, on the ground he carried the ball nine times for 40 yards.
Chatham (2-0) now takes their season on the road to face a Voorheesville team they defeated in the final week of the season last year, giving the Panthers momentum heading into the playoffs.
"Obviously up front they like to run the ball, run tight-end set, and they have a good quarterback who likes to scramble, so we have to contain him, keep him off the edge and I think we've had some success on defense," Sitzer said. "Offensively, coach Sapienza has seen our offense for many, many years now, he's a great coach, but we have to throw in a couple wrinkles to keep them on their toes and as long as we can stay healthy we have a good shot at them."
Chatham and Voorheesville kickoff on Saturday at 12 p.m.