Dylan McAllister couldn’t have picked a better night to have arguably his best performance of the season. The senior running back carried the ball 17 times for 156 yards, including two first-half touchdowns, in a 18-6 victory of New Fairfield on Senior Night.
“This was a quality opponent we beat today,” Pomperaug coach Dave Roach said. “It’s one of those litmus tests. It gives us a little credibility now that we’re turning things around.”
It took little time for the Panthers (4-5) to start to take control. With the Rebels (5-4) driving, Carl Gatzendorfer intercepted Michael McCourt inside the Panthers 15-yard line. The Panthers offense took over and drove to the Rebels 31-yard line, where McAllister would take them the rest of the way.
Going for it on fourth down, McAllister took the handoff and broke through a hole. After breaking a couple tackles he scampered into the endzone for the 6-0 lead.
“I just followed (Eric Beatty), made some cuts off him, brought it to the outside and ran to the endzone,” McAllister said.
He would follow that same script on his second touchdown, this time from 16-yards out and involving a little more work. After bouncing the run outside, McAllister broke an attempted tackle before racing to pylon and diving across the goalline before the Rebels defenders could reach him.
“Dylan’s a good running back. He’s a very good running back,” Roach said.
But it wasn’t just McAllister who was running through the Rebels. Gatzendorfer ran for 79 yards on 12 carries while Jack Yule added 34 yards on 10 carries.
“Things were finally being put together,” Roach said. “Our line is pushing guys around a little bit.”
While McAllister was running wild, the Panthers defense was containing Joe Pacheco, who had run for 1,821 yards entering the game. Pacheco was able to break just one long run, which he took 59 yards before being tackled and setting up the Rebels lone score.
“We told them ‘your playing against one of the better running backs in the state, if not the best running back in the state,'” Roach said. “I think they stepped up to the task. Their main objective was to stop him.”
McAllister, who also recovered a fumble on defense, echoed Roach.
“We really concentrated on stopping him,” McAllister said. “He’s a big key to their offense. So we really concentrated on stopping him and I think we did shut him down.”
The Panthers defense forced the Rebels to turn the ball over five times, including intercepting McCourt three times.
Now the Panthers focus turns to Oxford and the annual Thanksgiving matchup.
“There’s a little bit of a rivalry now with Oxford,” Roach said. “We want to keep the trophy here.”
Like New Fairfield, Oxford is trying to keep their playoff hopes alive, just adding to the intensity of the rivalry.
“They’re also a good team,” McAllister said. “They’re also in the running for playoffs. We hope to take it to them as well.”