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Panthers post 2nd shutout vs. Berlin

Wayrynen scores twice in 18-0 victory at home

It didn’t take long for the Granite State Panthers to jump out to an early lead over Berlin on Sunday.

After deferring possession to the second half, Mascenic junior Tom Hitt caused a fumble on the Gladiators first play from scrimmage and Mascenic senior linebacker Richie Brassard ran it back 42 yards for a 6-0 lead less than a minute into the game.

And with the way the Panthers’ defense has been playing, that was all they would need.

Granite State improved to 2-0 in the Independent Football League of New England with an 18-0 victory, the second shutout in as many games.

“The defense is playing just absolutely amazing right now,” said coach DJ Hutchinson. “If we keep playing the way we’re playing, we’ll be all set.”

On Berlin’s second possession, Michael Phillips intercepted a pass for the second of five turnovers on the day and it quickly set up another Panthers’ touchdown.

Quarterback Cooper Wayrynen, a Mascenic sophomore, ran one in from eight yards out to make it 12-0.

It would remain that way until the half, but early in the third quarter, Wayrynen scored his second rushing touchdown of the game, this one on a nine yard run, to give Granite State an 18-point edge.

Berlin never threatened in the second half, only making it to midfield on one possession.

Wayrynen, in just his second start at quarterback after being named the starter less than two weeks before the season, went 9-for-12 for 181 yards through the air. He rushed the ball eight times for 18 yards and two scores. After throwing two interceptions in the season opener, Wayrynen did not commit a single turnover on Sunday.

“A lot of people were doubting him going into the season, but he’s gone above and beyond what I’ve asked of him,” said Hutchinson. “His composure is just incredible and he has great vision of the field. Each week he’s getting better and better and we’re giving him more responsibility.”

Phillips once again led the Panthers receiving core with four catches for 61 yards and Alex Cota, a Conant junior, caught three passes for 26 yards.

Conant junior Josh Stevens ran for a season-high 84 yards on 11 carries, leading Granite State for the second straight week. For the game, the offense generated 312 yards, including 131 on the ground.

“The offense is moving the ball, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Hutchinson.

The defense allowed Berlin to get nowhere close to that total. The Panthers’ smothering defense allowed Berlin only five first downs and 71 yards on offense. The Panthers forced five turnovers, including three in the first half.

“The defense never gave them anything,” said Hutchinson.

Linebackers Gordon Wayrynen and Justin Haase each had interceptions, while Stevens recovered a fumble. Brassard led the way with 12 tackles and Gordon Wayrynen and Haase each had 10.

“We have 10 turnovers in two games,” said Hutchinson. “The defense is just setting us up.”

The Panthers will play at home on Sunday against a new team in the IFL from Canada. The game is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Mascenic.

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