Sardis High’s Trent Presley (left) gets pushed out of bounds by Southside’s Ryan Martin during the Panthers’ 14-10 victory in high school football on Sept. 7 in Sardis City.
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Southside High finished what it started against Sardis last Friday (Sept. 7).
The Panthers (1-2, 1-0) scored on their first and last possessions to post a 14-10 victory over the Lions in Sardis City in the Class 5A, Region 7 opener for both teams.
Kenneth Bothwell accounted for both Southside scores, the final one coming with a minute left in the game.
Bothwell finished with 177 combined yards. He rushed 18 times for 77 yards and caught three passes for 100 yards.
“I told the kids at halftime that the first half was a heck of a practice and that we weren’t going to change much [in the second half, just correct the things we needed to,” said Southside head coach Ron Daugherty. “Sardis has a heck of a ball club; they’re not one area where you look at and say that’s where we’re going to attack. We made some mistakes but we stepped up play after play, and I’m proud of our kids for not dropping their heads after a bad play. It was a hard-fought game, and we’re glad we came out on top.”
Sardis (0-1, 0-1) kept Bothwell in check for most of the game, as the senior halfback had 16 only yards at halftime and just 32 yards prior to the Panthers’ final series.
Matters did not look good for the visitors after a bad snap negated Nolan Johnson’s 33-yard field goal attempt at 9:25 of the fourth quarter. The score remained 10-7 in favor of the hosts.
The miscue set up the Lions at their own 7 following a personal foul penalty, and Sardis gradually moved the ball with three straight conversions on third down.
The Lions eventually arrived at midfield, but got no further. The Panthers defense finally held on third down to force a Sardis punt.
Starting at its own 19-yard line with 3:43 left in the game, Southside earned a pair of quick first downs to get to the Lion 42
“Our defense did a great jo of getting the ball back in that situation,” said Daugherty. “Our kids had the opportunity to hang their heads at that point but they battled and battled.”
That’s when Bothwell broke free for his longest run of the night, a 35-yard jaunt that provided the visitors with a first and goal at the Sardis 7.
Two plays later, Bothwell scored around right end from four yards out, and Johnson’s PAT made it a two-possession game with 60 seconds on the clock. Johnson further aided the Panther cause with a touchback on the ensuing kickoff.
But Southside was flagged for pass interference on the next play, and the Lions quickly moved into Panther territory when quarterback Jay Owens and tight end Brandon Noblitt connected for pass completions of 10, 9 and 12 yards.
Sardis eventually had a first down at the Southside 28, but the Lions’ potential rally fell short after three straight pass incompletions in the end zone in the closing seconds.
Michael Rich was 5 for 14 in passing for 118 yards as the Panthers finished with 241 total yards.
Sardis had 267 total yards. Owens completed 11 of 25 passes for 94 yards, while Jacob Hopper had six receptions for 80 yards.
Temon Wilson paced the Sardis ground game with 73 yards on seven carries, while Drew Vaughn ran 16 times for 50 yards.
“I felt like our defense played pretty well and kept us in the game,” said Sardis head coach Gene Hill. “We didn’t make some first downs at times in the third and fourth quarters and kept our defense on the field a little bit too long. We should score more than 10 points with our offense, but we shot ourselves in the foot at times. We got a little bit tired on that last [Southside] drive. But their big-time player made two big-time plays, and that was the difference in the game.”
The visitors hit paydirt on the first play from scrimmage when Rich found a seam in the Lion defense and hit Bothwell for a 75-yard touchdown. Johnson pushed through the extra point for a 7-0 lead 20 seconds into the first quarter.
“That was my fault,” said Hill. “We were in a defense that we should not have been in, so that one’s on me.”
The hosts drew even when a nine-play, 57-yard series resulted in Owen’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Hopper at 6:55 of the second period. Trey Salers’ extra point was good.
Mason Golden’s interception late in the half did result in points for Sardis, but the Lions cashed in on the first drive of the second half.
A 54-yard run by Wilson set up the hosts inside the Panther 20, but the Lions soon faced a fourth down and six at the 15. Sardis set up for a field goal but faked the kick, and Wilson ran 11 yards for a first down. Four plays later, Salers nailed a 22-yard field goal for a 10-7 advantage at 7:13 of the third.
Wilson picked off a Southside pass late in the quarter but the Lions subsequently went three-and-out.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of our kids,” said Daugherty. “It’s all about them growing up, and it’s not just the youngsters; we’ve got a lot of older kids who haven’t got a lot of experience.”
Sardis continues region play this week at second-ranked Etowah, while Southside has an open date.
“Our guys fought hard on both sides of the ball and we had a chance to win [the game], so we’re going to move on,” said Hill.