Coming off back-to-back-losses, the Sweet Home Panthers had to make a quick turnaround if they wanted to make a run at a postseason berth.
Did they ever. With a 46-36 victory over the Starpoint Spartans on their homecoming day, the Panthers evened up their record at 2-2 and made a statement that they have made leaps and bounds over where they were last season.
“Our kids were really unselfish today,” Panthers coach Jeremy Zimmer. “They played their tails off and we had a good game plan. It’s a great team win.”
The Panthers got going when quarterback Jamel Lucas took the snap and ran 31 yards to the end zone, but the Spartans answered back on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Carson Marcus to Jake Dean a few minutes later. After each team exchanged punts, the Panthers botched a punt that was downed at the one-yard line – leading to Aiden Davis scoring on a short run.
Things could have easily gone off the rails for the Panthers afterwards, but an 82-yard pick-six by Tyrell Laws swung the momentum back in Sweet Home’s favor. Lucas then added two more rushing touchdowns to give his team a 30-14 lead, and Sweet Home looked as if they would come away with a blowout win.
Like a heavyweight fight, however, each team began to trade scores as if they were punches thrown by boxers. Joe Carlson hauled in a 58-yard yard score to pull Starpoint to within 10 points but shortly thereafter, Lucas connected with Laws for a 10-yard touchdown.
Davis again found the end zone on a four-yard score on Starpoint’s next drive, but Lucas and Laws connected again on another touchdown from 57 yards away. On the play, Lucas appeared to be a magician – evading defenders and throwing across his body on a desperate heave to Lucas.
Although it looked as if it was random, Zimmer said that his team was prepared for such a situation.
“We practice that all the time on a scramble drill,” Zimmer said. “Every three or four plays in practice, our coaches yell out ‘Scramble’ and the quarterback’s got to roll out. We’ve got rules for him as far as where they’ve got to go on the field and what they have to do, and our kids have become pretty good at it.”
The Spartans, again, wouldn’t quit. Carlson found pay dirt again on a pick-six of his own and after the Panthers were forced to punt, Starpoint got the ball back deep in their own territory with not much time left. A stout pass rush by Sweet Home, however, foiled any plans by the Spartans to try and tie the game.
Two key games against Amherst and Kenmore East beckon the Panthers and Zimmer wasn’t about to let his team overlook either opponent, despite their combined 1-7 record.
“I watched Amherst play against Kenmore East last night and they’re both good teams,” Zimmer said. “Amherst has some big linemen and they’ve got two skill position players who are fast and athletic. 10 years ago or so, our school would play against either of those two schools and come away with a 50-point win. Nowadays, it’s not that way at all. They’re both going to fight until the end.”
“I think this whole division, to be honest with you, is really good but I think we can play with anyone in Class A. It’s going to be a tough battle these next two weeks to get ourselves a ticket to the dance.”
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