Thin as a third-quarter turnover that gives an opponent a short field.
Thin as two incomplete passes near the goal line, both of which were as close to interceptions as they were to touchdowns.
Thin as a missed 33-yard field goal.
Add it all up, and the Pell City Panthers suffered their third loss of 2012 Friday night at Pete Rich Stadium, falling 23-21 to Oak Mountain, on Homecoming.
“Our kids are not going to quit,” said Pell City head coach David Shores. “I’m proud of them — they played all four quarters. They’ve practiced hard, they play hard and it showed tonight.”
The loss marks the third time the Panthers (2-3) have been involved in a one-possession game this season. In this edition, they found themselves trailing 23-14 as the fourth quarter began, before mounting a rally.
“We just said we had to make a drive on offense,” Shores said. “We needed to run the football and move the football. We found some things that were working offensively and gave ourselves a chance to win.”
A 17-yard touchdown run by DeMaurian Wills capped a 71-yard march, to narrow the margin to three. The point-after by junior kicker Ryan Curran was good, and the home trailed by two.
The Pell City defense then stepped forward, forcing a punt the Eagles downed at the Panthers’ 20-yard line with 8:32 to play. Seventeen plays and 60 yards later, the Panthers had a first down on the Eagles’ 18.
Consecutive passes from quarterback Austin Martin were nearly intercepted, however, forcing a fourth-down field goal try. Curran’s effort sailed wide left with 42 seconds left on the clock, allowing Oak Mountain to finish the game in the Victory formation.
“I feel terrible for (Pell City’s) kids,” Oak Mountain head coach Cris Bell said. “I told David after the game, I’m not sure we deserved to win tonight. They (Pell City) played well enough to win.”
Oak Mountain controlled much of the action for three quarters, led by quarterback Jake Adams. Adams did not complete a pass Friday night, but did more than enough with his legs, gaining 102 yards on 16 carries. His fullback, senior Scott Hester, carried the ball 19 times for 95 yards and a touchdown.
“We were able to come back and move the ball tonight,” Bell said. “The margin for error is just so thin at this level; I’m happy we didn’t make too many.”
Pell City opened the scoring in the first quarter, following an Oak Mountain fumble on its first possession. It took only three plays for junior Ira Burch to find the end zone, scoring from 22 yards out.
Burch finished the game with 14 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown. Curran’s point-after made it 7-0 quickly.
The Eagles (4-1) responded in kind, with a 69-yard touchdown march. Hester scored from a yard out; then a direct snap to senior John Michael Miller resulted in a two-point conversion, and Oak Mountain led 8-7.
The Panthers were equal to the task, going 88 yards in 13 plays. Pell City’s Jackson Williamson capped the drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass on a reverse on fourth down. HD Fomby hauled in the score, and Curran’s point-after made it 14-8.
From there the game belonged to Oak Mountain. Sophomore Josh Gaines scored in the second quarter, followed by another conversion run by Miller to make the score 16-14.
In the third quarter, following a Pell City fumble, Gaines did it again, this time from 13 yards away. An extra point from Miller made the score 23-14.
Wills contributed 82 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, while quarterback Austin Martin completed 12-of-19 passes for 94 yards.
“We didn’t really stop them,” Bell said. “We stopped them enough to give ourselves a chance.
“I feel terrible for (Pell City), but I’m really thrilled for our kids.”
Shores did his job with a heavy heart Friday night, after the death of his father.
“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be,” Shores said. “You’ve got to be proud of our kids. They fought hard and gave themselves a chance to win.
“That’s all you can ask for.”
The Eagles return home to face Chelsea next week. Pell City will host Gadsden City.
Contact Will Heath at email@example.com.