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Panthers lose for 3rd time in last 4 games

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Despite a big performance by the defensive line, penalties and chippy play doomed the Albany Panthers en route to another loss to the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, falling 49-47, late Saturday night.

After taking a 47-46 lead with only a minute left on the clock, it seemed as though the Panthers would finally exorcise their road demons. However, a quarterback scramble by Hunter Wanket and a 13-yard catch by Tyrone Collins moments later, the Hawks were able to convert a go-ahead chip shot field goal by Evan Selman with 0.8 seconds left on the clock.

Johnny Lester jump-started the defending champs’ efforts off with a 37-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. The first half lived up to each team’s expectations, with the Panthers hitting the locker room clinging to a 27-26 lead.

Unfortunately for the two-time defending champs, they were unable to keep up with the Steelhawks’ passing attack. Tyrone Collins finished with 10 catches for 67 yards and a touchdown, while Tom Gilson grabbed nine catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns.

After a Tito Hannah sack at the goal line forced the Steelhawks to settle for a field goal early in the third quarter, Cecil Lester pass intended for Johnny Lester was picked off by Steelhawks defensive back Clarence Curry and returned deep into Panther territory. Collins caught a touchdown to give the Hawks a 36-27 lead with 2:30 left in the third.

On the ensuing kickoff, however, Johnny Lester took the kick and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown to give the Panthers a huge momentum swing. But the Steelhawks led a methodical drive downfield, capped with a four-yard touchdown pass from Adam Bednarik to Tom Gilson, giving the Hawks a 42-34 lead.

After an Aaron Wheeler touchdown catch cut the lead to two late in the game, the Panthers held the Hawks to a field goal, stretching their lead to five. After a 42-yard bomb from Cecil Lester to Antwone Savage, the Panthers held prime field position. Trae Ivory plunged into the end zone from two yards out, and the Panthers held a 47-46 lead with just a minute left to play.

Savage finished with five catches for 94 yards and a touchdown.

The Panthers fell to 4-4 on the season, and will return home to face the Richmond Raiders on June 1 after their final bye of the regular season next week.