Panthers miss several late opportunities, fall to Fayette County 21-14

Head coach Chad Phillips looks to the sidelines to communicate with his coaches during a time out in the first half. The Tigers were on the move and Phillips wanted to discusses strategy with his defense.

Jack Fletcher, [email protected]

Coming into last Friday night’s game, the Panthers had never lost to Fayette County while playing in Tiger Stadium, dating back to when the Panthers played their own home games there while Panther Stadium was under construction.

That changed when Fayette County won 21-14 in a tight contest.

The Panthers played well throughout the first quarter. The offense, led by junior quarterback Satchel Goodrich, started by taking his team on a 15-play, 55-yard drive, but the Panthers were penalized twice in the red zone. Senior kicker Brandon Oot missed his first field goal attempt of the season,  a 39-yarder.

Fayette County struggled to get anything going on its first possession, going three and out. On the ensuing punt, the Panther return team blocked the punt.   “We’re  not sure who blocked it,” head coach Chad Phillips said. “We couldn’t see the number.”  Senior tight end and defensive end Terence Harper recovered the ball on the Fayette County 12-yard line. Freshman running back Rico Frye ran it in for the first score of the game to give the Panthers their first lead of the season, 7-0.

The offensive woes for the Tigers continued into their next possession as Panther freshman safety Cole Gilley  intercepted Fayette junior quarterback Daveion Nash.

During the Panther drive,  an illegal procedure penalty and a bad snap from center put the Panthers in a fourth-and-36 situation.  Long snapper Lucas Patellas then snapped the ball over punter Oot’s head and out the back of the end zone to give the Tigers a safety with 1:02 left in the first quarter.

That play seemed to change the momentum, and the Tigers went on a seven-play, 65-yard touchdown drive capped off with a 16-yard run by senior running back Montrell Kelley to put Fayette County up for the first time with five minutes left in the half.   The Tigers also suffered a bad snap and missed the extra point to mount a narrow 8-7 lead.

Like the Tigers offense in the first quarter, the Panthers struggled to move the ball in the second quarter. The offense generated two first downs and 13 yards on 14 second-quarter plays.

“I need to be more of a leader when the offense gets like that,” Goodrich said. “I have to get on the running backs and make sure they follow the blocks and make sure they get through the right holes and keep on the O-line about crowding people out of those holes.”

To close out the half, Nash threw a short pass on the sidelines to senior wide receiver Desmond Fletcher, who ran for 66 yards and a touchdown.   The Panthers  blocked the extra point attempt and the Tigers extended their lead to 14-7.

Mother Nature may have played a role to start the second half.  Soon after coming out of the locker rooms, the referees called for a 30-minute lightning delay, which sent both teams back into their locker rooms. Fans were also asked to leave the stadium until the delay was over.

“I thought it really killed some momentum,” Phillips said. “We had a really good talk at halftime.  We seemed excited to get back on the field, and it just killed our momentum. That was an hour-long halftime. Our [weather radar] meters didn’t show any sign of activity either.”

Once the game resumed play, both teams’ first possessions ended with a three and out. The Tigers put up the first score with 6:53 left in the quarter on a 28-yard run by Kelley to take a two-touchdown lead.  Kelley finished the game with 154 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns.

The Panthers responded with a long, 13-play, 72-yard drive. On that drive, Frye ran for 55 yards on six carries and a one-yard touchdown run with 2:50 remaining in the quarter to make the score 21-14.   “I really just try to do what I can to help the team win,” Frye said. “I’ve just been getting some really good blocks from the lineman to help me out.”  Frye finished the game with 118 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. Through the first two games, he has 201 yards along with four of the five Panther rushing touchdowns.

During the midst of their next possession, the Tigers fought their way into the Panther red zone and looked ready to score but a dropped pass by Fletcher on fourth-and-1 on the  Panthers’ 15-yard line gave the ball back to Starr’s Mill.

Another extensive 15-play, 82-yard drive that ran 5:37 off the clock took the Panthers down to the Tiger 3-yard line where they faced a fourth-and-2.  Freshman running back Nic Brown was stuffed at the line of scrimmage and the ball was marked inches short of the first down.

The Tigers got the ball back with less than five minutes remaining in the game.  Kelley fumbled while trying to fight through three Panther defenders and senior linebacker Luke Schoolcraft recovered the ball on the Fayette 21-yard line, giving his offense another shot at tying the game.

On first down, Frye ran for two yards.  Then Goodrich completed a pass to junior wide receiver Dion Munerlyn for a four-yard gain.  On that play, starting center senior Hayden Faith went out of the game with leg cramps. Temperatures during the game remained in the 80s with high humidity levels.  Another run by  Frye on third down netted five more yards and a first down,  moving the chains to the 9-yard line.

On first-and-goal from the 9, with Faith still out of the game, backup junior center Colin McGuire snapped the ball when Goodrich wasn’t looking, and the ball fell on the ground. The Tigers pounced on it with 2:32 left.

“When Hayden cramped up, we hadn’t run with anyone else, in terms of snapping the ball in a game,” Goodrich explained. “It was clutch for Colin to come in, He was looking good on the sideline.  We had snapped the ball with him before, just not in the game.”

The Panther defense was able to force a three and out, and good use of their timeouts left Goodrich and his offense 42 seconds to try to make something happen. A short punt by the Tiger punter along with a good bounce for the Panthers gave them good field possession on the Fayette 38-yard line.

However, Goodrich was sacked for a four-yard loss on first down, followed by three straight incomplete passes. The Tigers took over and ran out the clock.

“These first two games don’t really matter,” Phillips said to his players after the game. “The game next week will matter. The game after that game will matter even more. So let’s get going. We still had a lot of first-game mistakes tonight, a lot of missed opportunities. There was three or four really bad penalties in the first half.  There was the fumble where the quarterback wasn’t looking, and we had the snap fly over the punter’s head. There were just way too many first-game mistakes again.”

Junior running back and linebacker Garrett Houston left the game in the middle of the second quarter with an apparent knee injury. He came out after halftime on crutches and is expected to miss a couple of weeks. “They said nothing was torn in the knee after the first look,” Houston said. “Hopefully I can get back out there soon.”

Still looking for their first win, the Panthers will travel to Dutchtown to play their second  of three straight road games at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12.