Panthers escape

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, September 23, 2008

McCOMB – Trailing Brookhaven 24-0 at halftime, McComb coachRandy Martin challenged his team and asked them to win the secondhalf. Martin’s Tigers responded on a muggy, sweat-soaked Fridaynight and nearly knocked off the favored Panthers before falling31-28 in an ancient rivalry that began in 1920.

McComb was knocking on the door in the last minute but a fumbleat the BHS 26-yard line with 10 seconds left to play secured thePanthers (2-1, 1-0) their second win of the season and their firstRegion 6-4A victory. The Tigers (0-4, 0-1) remained winless in amajor rebuilding year.

“It was an exciting game but we lost,” said Martin. “We are justa young team. We play hard and we make mistakes.

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“We asked them to win the second half and we did what we had todo.”

Directed by quarterback Marshall Dexter’s 2 touchdown runs and 2touchdown passes, the Tigers clawed their way back into contention.Everything had gone right for the Panthers in the first half butthings slowly deteriorated. Players from both teams suffered legcramps which were caused by stress, heat and high humidity.

After McComb pulled within 24-21, with 8:17 left to play, thePanthers responded. Quarterback Bud Britt was forced to scrambleout of the pocket but he managed to find wide receiver Trent Powellin the clear. That resulted in a 59-yard pass completion for atouchdown and a 31-21 advantage.

“It’s a great rivalry,” said Britt, as he stretched his legs torelieve tension after the game. “Both teams put it all out there onthe field when we play.”

Asked about the second half, Britt said, “We didn’t perform upto our abilities, but luckily we made some plays.”

Powell, a 5-foot-10, 168-pound sophomore, caught 4 passes for 68yards. Recalling the touchdown reception, Powell said, “Bud made agreat throw and Nick Peavey threw an excellent block.”

BHS dominated the first half and the breaks favored thePanthers. By comparison, the Tigers fumbled a punt return at their26. Six plays later running back Semmie Smith covered the final 4yards around left end.

On the PAT kick, a low snap was scooped up by Britt who dodged atackler and threw a sidearm pass to Duwone Harris for the 2-pointconversion and an 8-0 lead.

McComb’s miscues continued. A high snap on a fourth down puntwasn’t’ covered until it crossed the goal line, giving the Panthersa 2-point safety.

On the free kick, Isaiah White returned it 37 yards to McComb’s28. Smith scored 3 plays later and it was 17-zip with 10:48 left inthe first half.

After halting McComb at the BHS 32, the Panthers launched a6-play scoring drive. Britt was 3 of 4 passing for 51 yards.Clayton Winston streaked the final 15 yards around left end for theTD. Chris Lowman’s PAT made it 24-0 with 3:09 left in the firsthalf.

Ole Brook head coach Tucker Peavey was surprised anddisappointed by his team’s second-half collapse. ” We played awfulon offense and defense. Our kids thought it was over at halftime.Obviously, we have a long way to go before we can call ourselves agood football team.”

Dexter (5-11, 175, jr.) and running backs Mario Smith (5-9, 160,jr.) and Ashton Elzey (5-11, 200, soph.) ignited McComb’ssecond-half rushing attack. Wide receiver Tradarius Holloway (6-2,200, soph.) became a big target, snatching 6 passes for 89 yards,despite leg cramps.

Following a Panther fumble at McComb’s 23, Dexter engineered a77-yard drive, climaxed by his 10-yard keeper around left end.Dexter also ran the 2-point conversion and it was 24-8 with 33seconds left in the third quarter.

McComb capitalized on a high snap on fourth down and took overat Brook’s 21. Five players later, Dexter ran it in from 3 yardsout. The Tigers trailed 24-14 with 9:13 left to play.

On the next Panther possession, Smith was tackled and fumbled.McComb’s Deontay Evans realized a freshman’s dream, snaring theball in midair and racing 21 yards for the TD. Cavellis Luckettkicked the extra point and McComb trailed 24-21 with 8:14 left toplay.

The Panthers asserted themselves on the next series and claimeda 31-21 advantage. McComb wasn’t finished and fans who left athalftime headed for the buffet line at the Golden Corral Restaurantmissed the exciting conclusion.

BHS hosts Mendenhall Friday and McComb travels to LawrenceCounty for region action.