Photo: Southside High’s Kenneth Bothwell runs for yardage during the Panthers’ 28-21 loss to Pell City on Sept. 15. (Photo by Gary Wells)
By Chris McCarthy
It appeared that Southside High School would send last Friday’s (Sept. 15) game against Pell City into overtime when Kenneth Bothwell’s six-yard touchdown run tied the game at 21-21 with just under a minute to go in regulation.
But the visiting Panthers had stung the host Panthers with big plays all night, and it turned out that the St. Clair County squad possessed a few more bombs in its arsenal.
Brock Shafer returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards to the SHS 35-yard line, and on the next play Collier Slovinsky completed a halfback option pass to Maleek Robinson. The senior receiver found a gap in the Southside defense and took it to the house for six points.
Sergio Alvarez tacked on the extra point, giving the visitors a 28-21 advantage with 38 seconds on the clock. That proved to be the final margin when Gavin Griffin’s 10-yard pass completion to Caleb Jacobs on fourth down failed to pick up the necessary yardage.
“I’m proud of how hard our kids fought tonight and kept their heads up even when it looked bad,” said Southside head coach Ron Daugherty. “[Pell City] came in and got us on a couple of things. After halftime we fixed a couple of mistakes and did some things that we thought we could do, but a few big plays hurt us. Each week it’s all about the kids getting more experience and picking up on what we’re trying to do. As long as we can do that, I feel good about this team improving every week.”
After halfback Darius Garrett left the game with an injury midway through the second quarter, Southside (0-4, 0-2) essentially shut down the visitor’s run game. Pell City (2-1, 1-0) finished with 70 yards total rushing, with Garrett accounting for 56 of those yards before he exited. Other than two scrambles by Braden Crow that resulted in negative yards, Pell City did not call a running play after halftime.
Coming out of a 7-7 tie at intermission, Logan McGee recovered a fumble on Pell City’s first possession of the second half. Southside failed to convert the turnover into points, however, and with 3:51 left in the third quarter Robinson connected with Shafer on another halfback option pass that wound up going 63 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt failed, putting Pell City ahead 13-7.
Southside then put together its longest drive of the night. Moving 80 yards in 11 pays and aided by a pair of personal foul penalties on Pell City, the hosts cashed in when Bothwell ran it in from one yard out.
Nolan Johnson booted the PAT, giving Southside its first lead of the game at 14-13 at the 9:03 mark of the fourth period.
Later in the quarter, pass completions of 22 and 28 yards helped Pell City get to the SHS 9-yard line, where Braden Crow found Andrew Crow just inside the goal line for the touchdown, Braden Crow then hit Robinson for the two-point conversion for a 21-14 lead with 2:39 left in regulation.
Knowing that time was of the essence on the next drive, Southside passed on five straight plays to get to its own 37. On fourth and 10 and with the game in the balance, Griffin kept the series alive with a 1-yards scramble that provided the hosts with a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, Griffin found Tristan Riggan streaking down the left sideline, and two seniors teamed up for a 49-yard completion.
On third and goal, Bothwell did the honors from six yards out, and Johnson’s PAT regained the Southside advantage at 28-21 with 59 seconds on the clock.
Bothwell rushed for 115 yards on 25 carries, while Tyler Abernathy ran seven times for 20 yards.
Griffin was 9 for 22 in passing for 210 yards.
Following a scoreless first quarter, Southside came up short on a 50-yard field goal attempt at 8:23 of the second period.
Pell City took over at their own 20, and an 11-yard run by Garrett and an 11-yard reception by Shafer helped bring the ball to the PCHS 42, where on a second down and 5 Braden Crow threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to Robinson. Alvarez’s PAT made it 7-0 in favor of Pell City at 5:29.
But Southside got possession at midfield with 1:30 remaining before halftime, and Griffin’s 31-yard pass to Jacobs placed the hosts inside the PCHS 10-yard line.
Two plays later, Griffin and again hooked up, this time for a seven-yard TD pass with 47 seconds left. With Johnson’s extra point, the host Panthers entered the locker room tied at 7-7.
Braden Crow completed 12 of 22 passes for 240 yards. Robinson caught four passes for 125 yards, while Shafer had four receptions for 99 yards.
“It just hurts me for the kids,” said Daugherty. “They’re working real hard, but it’s just not bouncing their way right now. But I can tell you this – we’ll continue to fight and work hard until things start bouncing our way, because that’s they type of kids they are and the type of families that they come from. We’re going to continue to battle and get better every week.”
Southside takes a break from region play this week with a home game against Fairley (Tenn.).