To opposing football teams, North Carroll has long been a soft spot on the schedule. Just one winning season in the past 20 will earn a team a reputation as a pushover.
"Everybody is used to running all over North Carroll," quarterback Stefan Mitchell said. "Now we're trying to change things."
Last night, the Panthers took the latest step in their turnaround, getting three first-half touchdown passes by Mitchell during a run of 36 straight points in a 36-8 win over South Carroll.
North Carroll is 3-0 for the first time since 1996 and is the only unbeaten team in Carroll County.
"We used to have kids making fun of us," linebacker Jason Thomen said. "Now, everyone [in school] is respecting us. They're saying, 'Good job,' and coming to the games."
Panthers fans witnessed an offensive showcase by the home team in the first half.
Down 8-0 after a fumbled punt return in the first quarter, the Panthers took control of the game by riding the arm of Mitchell. The strong-armed quarterback time and again took the snap in the shotgun formation, often sidestepping a tackler before launching passes to his core of speedy receivers.
In the span of 15 minutes, he threw touchdowns of 71, 25 and 26 yards to Zach Westfall, Phillip Sheppard and Alex Cook, respectively, and finished the first half 7-for-9 for 213 yards.
"The line gave me time," Mitchell said. "I had all the time to look down the field, see what I had to see and get the ball out."
Mitchell finished the game 9-for-15 for 250 yards, and has seven touchdowns against two interceptions on the season.
"We have a lot of offensive playmakers, and Stefan has the ability to take something that's kind of broken down and turn it into a good play," North Carroll coach Jeff Oeming said. "He's a difference-maker for us on offense."
Meanwhile, South Carroll (1-2) could muster little, particularly after taking the early lead on Chris Chastain's 1-yard touchdown run and making a two-point conversion on a pass to Timothy Jessee.
The Cavaliers mounted strong drives twice more in the half, only to turn over the ball, first on downs at the 19 and then on an interception by Thomen at the 25.
Late in the third quarter, Adam Slatniske intercepted a pass by Mitchell, but the Cavaliers again turned the ball over on downs after failing to score on four straight plays inside the 6.