Pandora-Gilboa's Isaac Stall (50), Travis Maag (14) and Riley Larcom (13) chase McComb quarterback Tanner Schroeder (10) during first half action of their Region 26 regional semi-final Friday night. The Rockets won the contest 28-9. (Putnam Sentinel/Charlie Warnimont)
Pandora-Gilboa's Isaac Stall (50), Travis Maag (14) and Riley Larcom (13) chase McComb quarterback Tanner Schroeder (10) during first half action of their Region 26 regional semi-final Friday night. The Rockets won the contest 28-9. (Putnam Sentinel/Charlie Warnimont)

NAPOLEON — Pandora-Gilboa turned the tables on McComb Friday night during their Division VII, Region 26 regional semi-final at Napoleon's Charles  Buckenmeyer Stadium.

When the two Blanchard Valley Conference squads squared off three weeks ago, the Panthers were the more physical team. Friday night the Rockets took a page out of the McComb playbook becoming the more physical team.

Behind some strong play on defense and taking advantage of opportunities on offense, the Rockets built a halftime lead and never gave the Panthers a chance to recover in a 28-9 win on a chilly night in Napoleon.

The win sends the Rockets (10-2) to the Region 26 regional finals next Friday night against top ranked Norwalk St. Paul (12-0) at a site to be determined by the OHSAA. This is the first time in school history the Rockets have advanced to the regional finals in football. McComb saw its season end at 9-3.

“We were physical tonight. I don't know if we were more physical because they still did a lot of what they wanted to do,” P-G coach Matt Hershey said. “We were able to force them into bad situations. We were able to score offensively and put them in a position where they had to throw and their quarterback, #10 (Tanner Schroeder), is an athlete. If he had played quarterback all year he probably would have thrown for 300 yards, but we will take the win and move on.”

McComb's offense had things going their way early as on three of their first four possessions they were able to move the ball against the Rocket defense, but only came away three points. Those came on their second drive after the Panther defense intercepted a Jared Breece pass and returned the ball to the Rocket 23. A facemask penalty gave McComb a first down just outside the 10 yard line.

The Rocket defense stiffened and forced a 21 yard field goal attempt by Schroeder that split the uprights for a 3-0 Panther lead with 2:36 left in the first quarter.

It wasn't until the second quarter the Rocket offense started to find its rhythm.

After a Panther punt had them at their own 32, Pandora-Gilboa drove 68 yards in 10 plays, nine runs, to take a 6-3 lead after the extra point was blocked. Nine of the 10 plays were runs with Breece and Carter Nofziger getting the majority of the work load. Breece had four runs on the drive that included a three yard plunge into the endzone with 6:37 left in the half. Breece had runs of 21 and 15 yards on the drive as well as Nofziger was able to bust off a pair of seven yard runs.

The Rockets defense set up two more P-G scores in the half with a fumble recovery and an interception. McComb had three turnovers in the first half and four for the game, three interceptions.

P-G got the ball back on a fumble recovery by Breece at the Panther 41. It took seven plays for the Rockets to find the endzone as Breece hit Riley Larcom with a 12 yard scoring strike with 1:54 left in the half. Six of the seven plays for P-G were runs as Breece and Peyton Traxler handled the work load before Breece found Larcom with the touchdown pass. With the extra point the Rockets had a 13-3 lead.

McComb started its next drive at their own 37 after a fine kickoff return by Kheaghan Loe. Two plays later, the Rockets had the ball back as Ryan Lee came up with an interception of a tipped pass by Schroeder. Lee returned the ball 40 yards to the McComb 12 and two plays later, the Rockets were in the endzone as Breece once again found Larcom with a scoring pass in the back of the endzone with 45.9 seconds left until half. The Rockets had a 20-3 lead after the extra point.

The two teams traded punts to start the second half before the Rockets were able to strike for their final score of the night.

Starting at their own 24, the Rockets drove 76 yards in nine plays as Breece scored on a 34 yard run with 3:09 left in the quarter. Breece took the ball over the left side of the line, found an opening and raced into the endzone. With a two-point pass to Larcom the Rockets had a 28-3 lead.

McComb was driving on their next possession as they were at the Rocket 35. On the next play, Schroeder missed a wide open receiver down field with the pass being picked off by Breece in the endzone.

McComb scored with 6:53 left in the game as Loe scored on a two yard run, The conversion pass failed leaving the score at 28-9.