Photo: Southside High’s Kenneth Bothwell (left) looks for running room during the Panthers’ 13-7 loss to Helena last Friday (Sept. 28). (Courtesy of Travis Greene)
By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Helena earned its first win of the season with a 13-7 victory over Southside in a non-region contest on Friday (Sept. 28) at Barney Hood Stadium.
Neither the Panthers (1-4) nor the Huskies (1-4) scored in the first half, though Helena made several trips into the red zone. The Southside defense was stout – particularly inside the 10-yard line – and the teams played to a 0-0 stalemate at intermission despite the Huskies holding a 201 to 57 yardage advantage.
Helena threatened to score on the opening drive of the second half when the Huskies marched down the field on a 10-play drive and made their way down to the Panther 1-yard line. The Huskies opted to go for it on fourth-and-one, but the Panthers made their second goal line stand of the game and took over on downs.
The Southside offense gained one first down to give itself some breathing room but was forced to punt after only six plays and 15 yards. Helena applied pressure on the kick, and Matt Mizerany burst through the line and blocked the punt to set up the Huskies on the Panther 5. Helena quarterback Luke Stamba scored from five yards out for the first points of the game with 3:28 remaining in the third quarter. The extra point gave the Huskies a 7-0 lead.
Blake Reed returned the ensuing kickoff to the 38-yard line to set up the Southside offense with solid field position. Three plays later, the Panthers faced a fourth-and-one from their own 47. Southside head coach Ron Daugherty opted to roll the dice and go for it, and he turned to nose guard Chance Moon for the short yardage situation.
A 6-foot, 265-pound defensive lineman, Moon came in at quarterback in what Daugherty calls the “Beast” package. Moon took the direct snap in the shotgun, faked a jet sweep to Kenneth (Cat) Bothwell, and plunged forward for a four-yard gain and the first down.
On the next play, Bothwell took a sweep around the right end, made a swift cut across the field and sprinted to the end zone for a 49-yard touchdown. Nolan Johnson’s extra point tied the game at 7-7 with 33 seconds left in the third quarter.
After both teams exchanged punts, the Huskies started their eighth drive of the game on their own 13-yard line with 9:55 left in the game. Stamba rushed for a 19-yard gain to get Helena out of the shadow of its own end zone and later completed a 19-yard pass to LaDarrius Rice on third-and-13 to extend the drive.
Four plays later, the Huskies were facing a fourth-and-one on the Southside 46-yard line. Stamba kept the ball on a designed quarterback run, and he burst through the line of scrimmage and dashed to the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point was no good, but the score gave Helena a 13-7 lead with 5:54 left in the game.
Southside’s next drive resulted in a turnover-on-downs after only four plays, but the Panthers forced a three-and-out on the Huskies’ next possession.
The Panthers had one final chance to score as they took over on their own 23-yard line with 1:54 remaining. On the first play of the drive, quarterback Michael Rich connected with Bothwell on a 42-yard strike to move the ball to the Helena 44. Southside couldn’t move the ball any further, however, and turned the ball over on downs to end the game.
Helena outgained Southside 351 to 164, with the Huskies racking up 255 yards on the ground. The Panthers’ defense was the definition of bend-don’t-break for most of the game, holding Helena to zero points on four trips in the red zone. Southside senior safety Blake Habyan broke up a pair of passes on fourth down to prevent two touchdowns.
Daugherty said “inconsistency” has been plaguing the Panther offense all season.
“Aside from a couple of big plays, the defense is playing lights out,” Daugherty said. “We’re just not executing offensively and putting points on the board. There’s not any magic play to call… One minute it’s one spot on the offense and one minute it’s another. We just have to go back to work.
“We have certain things we feel like we can execute, and then if there’s anything a little bit different from what they’ve seen before, they have trouble executing and doing what we’ve done in practice. All we can do is go back to work and keep on working.”
Bothwell led the Southside offense on the night as he rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. He also caught two passes for 46 yards. Rich completed three passes for 54 yards.
Marquis Johnson led the way for the Helena offense on the ground. He rushed 25 times for 150 yards. Stamba carried the ball 20 times for 105 yards and a score and completed six passes for 96 yards.
Southside travels to Douglas for a Class 5A, Region 6 matchup. The Panthers remain in position to host a playoff game, and Friday’s game against the Eagles is a must-win scenario for Southside’s postseason chances.
“Everything the [players] want is still in front of them, (such as) hosting a playoff game,” Daugherty said. “But there’s a lot of work to be done before we can think about that. There are a lot of things that have to happen. Right now, it’s got to be fundamentals and doing the right things.”