THE pre-game script was set in stone.
Yarrawonga was back at home and primed for a challenge after some lacklustre performances.
Lavington had no chance based on the personnel sitting on the sidelines, including its first-choice on-ball division.
One hundred minutes of footy later and the inquisition into one of the more remarkable results of recent seasons was under way and will no doubt continue until the return bout.
The Panthers dug deep into their reserves of talent — literally — to emerge with a 45-point win against the premier team of the past two seasons, Yarrawonga, at the J.C. Lowe Oval on Saturday.
Lavington took on and beat one of the competition’s most talented teams at close to full strength, with superb contributions from unheralded players such as Will Lenehan, Zac Hopper, Jack Nunn, Brad Boots, Chris Annett, Brydan Hodgson, Sam Hargreave and Connor Byrne.
Collectively, the aforementioned group of first and second-year players wouldn’t have 50 O and M senior games’ experience between them.
But they backed themselves, hunted in packs and in the process exposed a chink in the Pigeons’ armoury — a lack of pace.
Confidence levels soared when the Panthers exploded out of the blocks to lead by 21 points at quarter-time against the flat-footed home team.
Justin Koschitzke cashed in on an early free kick to set the ball rolling and the Panthers had three goals on the board before the Pigeons even scored.
Brendan Fevola kicked Yarrawonga’s first goal at the 14-minute mark and ended another scoring drought in the second quarter with his second at the 20-minute mark.
But in the interim, the Panthers were coasting with a 44-point lead and Yarrawonga was powerless to stop the shock onslaught from the undermanned visitors.
Recalled ruckman Tom Yensch more than matched spring-heeled Brandon Symes, while down back Brant Dickson, Lewis Gardiner, James Saker and Lenehan had the star-studded Pigeons blanketed.
A mini fightback from the Pigeons was sparked by Drew Barnes’ move into the ruck before half-time, but they were in deep trouble on the scoreboard, trailing by 31 points.
Hodgson left his mark on the game early with three goals before half-time for Lavington.
The anticipated Yarrawonga fightback failed to materialise as Koschitzke kicked another from a strong grab at close range at the start of the third term.
Koschitzke was clearly restricted by a quad injury, but courageously stayed on the ground and finished with 6.1, including three goals in the last term.
Yarrawonga’s customary drive from the midfield was non-existent, except for some valiant efforts from Tim Cooper and Tyler Bonat.
Saker eclipsed Fevola and Kayne Pettifer had to work up the ground to get his handful of touches.
Brad O’Connor, who had been blanketed by Lenehan and Lewis Gardiner, broke free in the last quarter to be the Pigeons’ leading goalkicker with three.
But the result was already beyond doubt with the Panthers also helped by the input of seasoned trio Luke Garland, Jay Banks and John Hunt.
Lavington coach James Saker was proud of his charges.
“We are a structure over personnel side,” he said.
“We knew we were injecting a lot of leg speed.
“We turned a bit of a corner from the Wangaratta game, which was our worst game in my time here.
“We turned that on its head with a bit of hard work during the week.
“It has taken our backs being against the wall to find out what we can really do.”
Yarrawonga co-coach Chris Kennedy said his team had been shown up in many areas.
“When you are not controlling the footy you always look slow,” he said.
“We just didn’t play intelligent footy.
“They came here with an attitude of nothing to lose and performed accordingly.”