Panthers take opener

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 31, 2009

Season-opening success was savored by the Brookhaven PanthersFriday night on King Field. The Panthers got a fourth-quarter,55-yard touchdown run from Semmie Smith and a rally-killinginterception by Isaiah Williams with 1:14 left to play as they heldoff the Franklin County Bulldogs 26-18.

An estimated crowd of 2,500 watched the Panthers take a 19-6,third-quarter lead on a 14-yard pass from junior quarterback DuwoneHarris to wide receiver Devonte Stewart. The Bulldogs (0-2) tackedon a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns but it was too little andtoo late to catch the Panthers. Frank Hunt plunged 9 yards for FC’sfinal TD with 3:03 left to play.

“It feels good to win the opener,” said BHS senior defensivetackle Cordai Henderson. “We have to get tougher on defense.Franklin County played smash-mouth football.”

Henderson’s fumble recovery at the Bulldogs’ 38 set up histeam’s first touchdown drive.

The rivalry was dormant for 2 years but it filled the stands ona warm Friday night. Smith’s big TD run was set up on an exciting24-yard kickoff return by Trent Powel to his 45-yard line. Smithtook the handoff from Harris to the end zone shedding severalwould-be tacklers along the way.

“Give credit to my offensive line,” said Smith. “They got ahelmet on the defense. Franklin County has a good team and I’mhappy to play them again.”

Smith, coming off an 1,100-yard rushing performance in 2008,scored his team’s first touchdown of the year on a 1-yard sprintaround right end, with 4:36 left in the first quarter.

The Panthers marched 85 yards in 6 plays on their second TD.Harris broke loose on a 35-yard sprint and Smith went 30 yards onthe next play. Two plays later Harris scored over left tackle.

Dewey Stailey kicked the extra point and the Panthers led 13-zipwith 9:17 left in the first half.

Harris, an athletic junior getting his first varsity start,finished with 99 yards rushing and 60 yards passing.

“It was my first time to take a snap and I was a littlenervous,” Harris admitted. “I have a lot more to learn. My lineblocked pretty good.”

The Bulldogs, bouncing back from a season-opening 12-0 upset atLoyd Star, scored their first TD when quarterback Edward McGheeplunged into the end zone on a sneak with 3:06 left in thehalf.

Ole Brook head coach Tucker Peavey said he was pleased to seehis team notch a victory but he saw plenty of room for improvement.”If we hadn’t have made those turnovers (2 fumbles) in the firsthalf, we could have stretched the lead. We had some first-gamejitters. Now we have to work harder to get better. We need to getin better shape, too.”

The Bulldogs converted fourth-down situations twice in adetermined third-quarter drive. It was launched by DehendretCollins who authored a 39-yard kickoff return to the BHS 48.Running out to the Wing-T formation, Collins scored on a 1-yardplunge, closing the gap to 19-12.

After Smith’s long TD run on the next series, the Bulldogsmarched 80 yards in 13 plays. Frank Hunt rumbled around right endand scored from 9 yards out.

Franklin County coach Trent Hammond said he was encouraged byhis team’s second-half effort against a Class 5A opponent. “I’mproud of my kids. They played hard and pulled together after atough loss last week. Our kids ran the ball hard. Jermaine Standerdid a heckuva job.”

On defense, Brad Covington led the Bulldogs with 7 tackles.Tevin Thomas had 6 stops.

The Panthers got 7 tackles from Jawaun Merchant. Jeffery Newtonmade 6 tackles.