Final statistics and the score seemed to reflect how evenly the teams were matched, but the major difference in the Panther offense were big plays, a 44-yard touchdown pass and a 60-yard run for a touchdown.
Tiger Coach Adam Fossett said after the game, “We work on not giving up the big play all year and are still giving them up.”
The opening quarter became a punting game as neither offense could mount an offense. Childersburg’s big break came with a minute left in the quarter when Elmore’s punter took a low snap and muffed the punt giving the Tigers on the Panther 36.
CHS opened the second quarter with a 2-yard off tackle run by running back Frank Wilkerson and the Tigers took a 6-0 lead with a missed 2-point conversion.
The Panthers showed some offensive life with a 33-yard strike from quarterback Michael Walls to wingback Javon Moore. The drive stalled at the Tiger 11 when the Tiger defense held the Panthers on fourth down.
The Tigers next series resulted in another punt and then their defense held the Panthers on downs again before running out the clock to end the second quarter and heading into halftime leading 6-0.
“I believed going into the half they were tired, they had their hands on their hips,” Fossett said. “I thought if we could score again maybe they would lay down.”
The third quarter played out the same as the first half as both teams were able to hold the opposing offense to minimal gains.
With 4:47 left in the third quarter, however, the Tigers found a running game and drove the ball 60 yards in four plays with running back Kendarius Calhoun rushing for 35 of those yards and scoring on a 13-yard run. The missed 2-point conversion gave the Tigers a 12-0 lead.
With the following kickoff, the Elmore County Panthers scored with two big passing plays. Walls scrambled after narrowly escaping the defensive’s grasp to throw at 25-yard strike to Moore. Two plays later Walls handed the ball off to running back Eddie Cooper who pulled up and launched a 44-yard touchdown pass to Moore. Suddenly the Panthers were in the game cutting the Tiger lead to 5 with the PAT and the score stood at 12-7 at the end of the third quarter.
The Panthers recovered the kickoff at the Tiger 21 after the receiver slipped and was unable to recover the ball. The Panthers drove the ball to the Tiger 12 but another defensive stand in the red zone kept the Panthers out of the end zone.
Taking over at their own 12 the Tigers had to settle for a punt and the Panthers took over at their own 40. From the 40, Sebastion Birmingham took a pitch from Walls and scampered 60 yards around right end for the touchdown and with the extra point the Tigers suddenly found themselves behind 14-12.
Childersburg started their next drive from their own 20 but managed to gain one first down before punting with 5:13 left on the clock and depending on their defense to force the Panthers to punt.
Three plays later, the Panthers made an interception and returned the ball to the Tiger 6 and seemed certain to seal the game with a score. With fourth-and-5, Walls’ pass was intercepted and the Tigers took over at their own 12 with 1:41 left in the game.
“Its funny,” Fossett said, “defensive coordinator Barry Simmons said, ‘The two minute drill is going to win this.’ I said, ‘I hope you’re right.’”
Aided by interference and roughing the passer penalties Tigers quarterback Lightsey mounted a charge that included spectacular play and head’s up football.
Lightsey completed a 34-yard pass to receiver Courtney Reynolds. The next play was a 15-yard strike to Calhoun who quickly stepped out of bounds to stop the clock.
Lightsey dropped back to pass but had to take off for the sideline and stopped the clock with a 6-yard run. With 24 seconds left, Lightsey threw a 22-yard strike to Reynolds standing wide-open in the end zone and the Tigers won the come-from-behind homecoming victory over the Panthers 18-14.
“You know the old saying,” Simmons said, “You play like you practice. Every Thursday we practice the two minute drill.
“Think about it, our quarterback is a tenth grader, and right before the last drive he threw the interception. He bounced back, kept his cool, running out of bounds to stop the clock.”
Panther coach Norman Dean said, “Our hats are off to them. They had a good game plan.”
Dean also lamented about his team being in the red zone twice but unable to score. “That is the difference in the game,” Dean said.
“Our defense had some big plays but none bigger than the last goal line stand,” Simmons said. “We practice it [the goal line stand] all week and we executed tonight.”
Fossett said, “We had some huge, huge defense plays. This is a huge win for our program. The kids did great. It’s a great win for them, it’s all about them.”
Childersburg travels to Dallas County next week.
Contact Mark Ledbetter at email@example.com