Chris Kempton had to request a timeout in order to set up the victory formation for the Out-of-Door Academy offense.
And that was not necessarily a bad thing.
After waiting three days and nearly 80 minutes, the Thunder kicked off the 2018 season in impressive fashion with a 33-7 rout of Fort Myers Canterbury on Monday night at the Cougars field.
After being postponed Friday night and waiting an hour and 20 minutes after the scheduled 6 p.m. start Monday, Kempton picked up his first victory as Out-of-Door coach.
“It was worth the wait,” said the former assistant who took over for Ken Sommers.
It was Sommers’ offensive line and a stifling defensive performance that propelled the Thunder.
The offensive line of Banks Paxton, Tomas Giacinti, Brian Lutton, Michael Dyer and Sebastian Frias-Imbert permitted runners Colin Castro (14 carries, 62 yards) and Grady Paxton (10 carries, 40 yards) to grind out yardage. The pass blocking gave Tyler Beasley time to complete 14-of-24 for 261 yards and three touchdowns.
“The offensive line was tremendous tonight,” said Kempton, as he received congratulations from players. “I’m super proud of the offensive line. I told the guys that’s where it starts and stops with us. Coach Sommers has been working hard with those guys. They sucked it up and bought in and were gritty.”
After getting two penalties and losing a fumble on its first three offensive plays of the season, Out-of-Door struck quickly. Beasley completed five passes in a 66-yard drive that ended with Castro’s 1-yard run on the Thunder’s second possession.
After the Cougars tied it late in the first quarter, Out-of-Door broke the game open with three touchdowns in the second quarter.
Beasley hit Julian Brown (5 catches, 85 yards) for a 7-yard score on the first play of the second quarter and hooked up with Filip Soboda (4 catches, 88 yards) for a 39-yard strike. The Thunder special teams got into the act just before halftime, when Jarred Flahive blocked a punt with one hand and recovered in the end zone for a touchdown making it 26-7 at halftime.
“We’re doing some new things this year, so as the game wore on, we started see some of the things we are running,” Kempton said. “They got better as the game went on. Beasley threw the ball really well, and he had decent protection most of the night. Julian Brown is a big-time playmaker for us.”
The Thunder defense, which allowed 172 yards on the first half, 65 on Canterbury’s only scoring play, stifled the Cougars in the second half. On Canterbury’s four second half possessions, three ended with stops on fourth down and one ended with a punt. Dylan Dennehy had a quarterback pressure to end one drive. Noah Lewellen picked off a pass to end another.
“We have a lot of returners on defense, so we expected to be pretty good on defense,” Kempton said. “That’s about what we expected. Really proud of the defensive effort of those guys.”
Two-way lineman Tucker Harris didn’t play, and Flahive played only defensively.
“We had guys step up and do the job,” Kempton said.
The Panthers have a quick turnaround for its Sunshine State Athletic Conference opener 7 p.m. Friday at home against Tampa Bayshore Christian.