Panthers fall to Hillers 21-7 in season opener

WILMINGTON — Three consecutive touchdowns by Tower Hill School broke open what was a scoreless game at halftime as the Polytech High football team fell in its return to the field on Saturday.

Tower Hill’s Emmett Simpler rushed for one touchdown and passed for another to lead the Hillers to a 21-7 victory over the Panthers in nonconference action. Tower Hill coach Kevin Waesco earned his 118th win with the Hillers, tying Bob DeGroat’s school record.

For Polytech, it was coach Bob Gilmore’s first game back at the helm of the Panther football program since 2008. It was Polytech’s first game since Oct. 25 of last year, after the Panthers had to forfeit the final two contests of last season.

Polytech’s lone touchdown came on a 62-yard run by sophomore quarterback Ny’Kael Norman with 12 seconds remaining. The game was tied 0-0 before Tower Hill scored two touchdowns in the third quarter and one more in the fourth.

“I thought our kids played hard,” Gilmore said. “Defensively, we were physical. We ran out of gas at the end and certainly we can fix that. The kids played hard. We made a few mental mistakes that we can fix. But we can’t question the fact that they came up here and they played real hard.”

“That was certainly something we stressed,” Gilmore added regarding the late touchdown. “Let’s get on the board. That will give us some momentum on Monday to come in and start to prepare for the next one.”

Sophomore running back Brett Shelton-Hoskins had nine carries for 105 to lead Polytech. He nearly gave the Panthers the lead in the second quarter when he rushed for 57 yards down to the Tower Hill one-yard line.

But Polytech botched a snap on the next play before a holding penalty took a Panther touchdown off the board. The Hillers then got back-to-back sacks to push Polytech out of scoring range and ensure a scoreless first half.

Simpler recorded the game’s first score on a four-yard rush with 8:09 left in the third quarter. He then connected with Jordan Harmon for a 35-yard passing touchdown to double the lead. Brendan Hickey capped the scoring for Tower Hill on a four-yard fourth quarter rushing touchdown.

Cameron Mack and Jalen Anderson led the Polytech defense with a fumble recovery each.

With no scrimmages this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilmore is glad to now have some film on his team to correct some mistakes headed into Polytech’s next matchup at home on Friday against Sussex Tech.

“We looked at it kind of like a scrimmage,” Gilmore said. “We’re all in the same boat. Your first game you got to lay down film. You know you’re going to make mistakes and you got to get better for the next one. That’s the reality of it.”

Gilmore, the only person who’s been on Polytech’s football staff the entire time since the school opened in 1990, said he’s enjoying the energy he’s seeing out of his squad so far.

“It’s been fun for me to be around these kids,” Gilmore said. “They went through a lot last year. Their attitude has been fantastic. They do everything we ask them to do and that’s all we can ask of them. We are going to get better.”