Photo: Southside High’s Blake Habyan (center) returns an interception during the Panthers’ 15-9 win over A.P. Brewer in the Class 5A state playoffs last Friday (Nov. 9). (Gary Wells)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Thanks to a standout defensive effort and a late scoring drive, Southside High won its first postseason game in four years with a 15-9 win over A.P. Brewer in the Class 5A state playoffs last Friday (Nov. 9) at Barney Hood Stadium.
The Panthers (7-4) travel to Jasper this Friday (Nov. 16) for a second-round matchup.
After yielding a touchdown on Brewer’s first possession of game, the Southside defense held the visitors in check until early in the fourth quarter, when a 27-yard field goal by Caleb Gullion provided the Somerville squad with a 9-7 lead 43 seconds into the fourth quarter.
The hosts were then stopped on a fourth down conversion attempt with 8:10 left in the game. To make matters worse, Brewer had good field position at its own 49-yard line.
But just as it had for most of the contest, the Southside defense rose to the occasion.
A 26-yard run by quarterback Patrick Johnson brought the ball to the Panther 25, but the hosts allowed seven yards on the next three plays, forcing Brewer’s fifth punt of the night.
The Panthers took over at their own 15 with 6:39 on the clock. They quickly got some breathing room with a 16-yard run by Kenneth Bothwell, while a 17-yard Michael Rich-to-Bothwell pass completion brought the ball to near midfield.
Southside then went exclusively to the ground, as runs by Bothwell, Blake Reed and Andrew Dunston pushed the Patriot defense back to the 1, from where Dunston took it in for the score.
Reed ran in the two-point conversion to restore the Southside lead at 15-9 with 2:24 left.
The Somerville squad went down swinging, however.
Starting at the Patriot 42 after the Panthers were flagged for a personal foul penalty on the kick return, Johnson completed passes of 4, 15 and 11 yards to help get the visitors to the Southside 20 with just under 40 seconds remaining.
But Brewer was flagged 15 yards for intentional grounding, which included a loss of down. The Panthers withstood one last pass attempt on fourth down before the celebration began.
“Offensively we struggled to get things but our guys just kept battling and kept [Brewer] out of the end zone,” said Southside head coach Ron Daugherty. “[Brewer] kept giving the ball back to us and we kept shooting ourselves in the foot. But we put it all together on that last drive, and our kids showed that they were not to be denied.
“That’s not to take anything away from Brewer. That’s a heck of a football team, and that was a tough first round game.”
Bothwell finished with 130 rushing yards on 30 attempts. Reed added 48 yards on 10 carries, while Dunston rushed 10 times for 34 yards. Rich was 3 for 6 in passing for 40 yards.
For Brewer, Johnson completed 10 of 21 passes for 107 yards, with 44 of those yards coming on the last series. He also gained 44 yards on 11 carries.
Jonathan Morgan led the Patriots in rushing with 77 yards on 16 attempts.
After the Panthers managed minus-1 yard on the game’s opening possession, Brewer put together an 11-play, 50-yard series that resulted in Lehmon Cobb’s 8-yard touchdown run at the 4:51 mark of the first quarter. The PAT failed, leaving the hosts with a 6-0 deficit.
That was the only time the Patriots crossed the goal line all night, however.
Southside got on the scoreboard with just under nine minutes to go in the second quarter on Bothwell’s 23-yard touchdown run.
The Panther offense had another opportunity after Blake Habyan intercepted a pass on the ensuing Brewer series, but the hosts went three-and-out. The teams exchanged punts for the remainder of the first half, and Southside went into the locker room with a slim 7-6 lead.
The third quarter saw the Panther defense force a pair of three-and-outs while allowing just 10 yards. But the Southside offense struggled with a three-and-out and a failed fourth down conversion attempt.
The Patriots took over at their own 49 with two minutes left in the quarter. A 27-yard run by Johnson and a 17-yard catch by Kris Bramblett helped get the ball to the Panther 10.
Bothwell deflected a pass attempt in the end zone on third down, setting up Gullion’s field goal that gave Brewer a two-point lead at 11:17 of the fourth quarter.
“Sometimes you win a game one way and sometimes you have to win one another way,” said Daugherty. “I’m just glad that we’re going to the next round, and I couldn’t be prouder of our kids. There’s never a shortage of heart here at Southside.”