By Matthew DeGeorge
Strath Haven was mired in its sixth consecutive quarter without a touchdown when Ibo Pio lined up to receive a punt Friday night.
The running back had gashed defenses for the first three weeks of the season, then found running room scarce as the Central League season rose up to meet the Panthers. With neither Haven nor visiting Marple Newtown doing much offensively, Pio needed just one sliver of space to get his team going.
“That’s big energy right there,” linebacker Christian Mazur said of what would transpire next.
Pio returned a second quarter punt 37 yards, and after a Marple late hit, Haven had the ball at the 12. It set up a 28-yard field goal for Emmet Young that ended up being enough for the Haven defense in a 10-0 win to knock the Tigers from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Pio also scored the game’s only touchdown, a nine-yard jet sweep on the first drive of the third quarter. But the game pivoted on the punt return.
“I see it as getting good yardage for our team, for our offense,” Pio said. “It was a dogfight all night on offense just to get first downs. So punt returns are a big deal, and me seeing an alley like that and taking advantage of an opportunity and not wasting it, that’s big. It was a momentum changer for us.”
Listen to the entire game on our archive player below. Just click on the arrow button to start the broadcast: