Panthers closing gap to greatness

The Masuk football team sits atop the CIAC Class L football standings and has boosted its seasonal record to 4-0 by virtue of a 58-20 home-field win over Notre Dame of Fairfield last Friday night.

Still, head coach Joe Lato, sees room for improvement for a program which lost a 31-28 first-round state playoff round game last year to New Canaan.

The margin between being a very good team and an exceptional one is narrow.

Lato is hoping to fill that gap before December rolls around.

“We played well tonight, that isn’t the problem,” he said. “But we still have things to clear up. We had some penalties when you line didn’t line up correctly. There’s still work to be done.”

The Panthers rolled out quickly against a 3-2 Lancer team.

Masuk took its opening drive 60 yards in just seven plays, mostly behind the running of senior quarterback Matt Hersch. After running 27 yards to get a first down at the Lancers’ 38, Hersch finished it off with an 18-yard run to score at 9:33.

The Panthers then added a safety, trapping Lancer QB Kyle Pavone in the end zone.

Down 9-0, however, ND and Pavone responded quickly. Faced with a 4th-and-two on his own 43, Pavone lofted a pass down the left side-line which was hauled in by Josh Tracey and the speedy wide-out went the distance.

Hersch’s five-yard TD run following a 25-yard interception return by Tyler Michalka, one of two he had in the game. That upped the Panthers’ lead to 16-7 with a little over two minutes left in the first quarter.

When the Lancers gambled on a 4th-and-three from their own 28, the Masuk defense stopped Pavone one yard short.

Hersch completed a pass to Nick Larusso to the one. After three attempts, two by Hersch, Peter Fox carried it in.

The Panthers would tack on three more touchdowns in the quarter to take a comfortable 44-14 halftime lead, which allowed for a running clock going into the third quarter.

ND could never catch up.

“Those guys have all been playing together for a long time now,” said Lancer coach Chris Sadler. “Throw in the fact that they have a lot of talented kids and you’ve got an excellent team. I thought we tried to hang in there. Kyle is normally a receiver, so he doesn’t get that many reps. He did a very good job under the circumstances.”

Pavone completed 12 of 28 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

Masuk’s defense held ND to 98 yards on the ground on 25 attempts.

With Curtis Swain, Sam Nalaboff, Max Mirizio, Alexander Lee and Ben Klittnick dominating up front, the Panthers picked up 382 yards (224 on the ground and another 158 passing).

Hersch was 9-of-19 passing and threw three TDs.

Roberge led all Masuk rushers with 116 yards on 11 carries.

“I might’ve had a good game,” Hersch said. “But we’re a very selfless team. Roberge had a nice running game, but then he’s down there blocking when we’re on the five-yard line. Credit our offensive line.

“We never look at the scoreboard,” he said. “What matters is each one of us doing our best individually. When you add it all up, that’s how you measure the result.”

Those numbers have looked very positive for the Panthers through their first four games.

Masuk visits Amity High from the SCC in Woodbridge on Friday at 7 p.m.

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