Photo: Southside’s Smiley Jones tackles Sardis’ Landon Carroll during the Panthers’ 49-7 victory in high school football last Friday (Sept. 25) in Sardis City. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Southside scored on its first seven drives and controlled the game from start to finish in a 49-7 win over Sardis last Friday (Sept. 25) in Sardis City.
The Etowah County rivals met for the third straight season, and the 6A Panthers avenged last year’s 33-31 loss.
The Lions’ opening drive of the game lasted over six minutes and took 12 plays, but Sardis could not convert a fourth down-and-8 from the Southside 31-yard line.
Panther quarterback Michael Rich, Jr., completed 10 of 12 passes for 285 yards and four touchdowns, including a 13-yard strike to Aulden Battles on Southside’s opening drive of the game. The Panthers converted a fourth-and-3 two plays prior, and a 29-yard pass from Rich to Hayden Robertson set up the touchdown pass.
After a three-and-out from the Lions (0-5), Rich connected with Battles on the first play of the ensuing drive for a 73-yard score to extend the lead to 14-0 on the first play of the second quarter. Another three-and-out led to Rich’s third touchdown pass of the half – again on the first play of the drive – and he hit Cody Roberts for a 45-yard score.
The Lions only mustered 28 yards of offense in the first half, and the Panthers took advantage and built a 35-0 halftime lead. Carnel Davis scored from 12 yards out with 5:46 remaining in the first half, and Rich hit Hayden Fry for an 11-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left in the quarter.
Southside (4-2) scored on its first two drives of the second half on a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs from Tyler Green. The first touchdown of the half was set up by a 56-yard completion from Rich to Roberts, and the second score came after a 14-yard toss from Rich to Jake Givens moved the ball into the red zone.
Sardis scored its lone touchdown of the evening on a 46-yard scamper by Peyton Wherwein with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
“I’m happy with the fact that we played a complete game,” said Southside head coach Gary Nelson. “We struggled a little bit early. We had that personal foul on roughing the punter that made us start slowly, but aside from that, we executed really well. That was the challenge I told our guys before the game – we want to execute to a standard and not make it about the opponent. Instead, you need to do your job and be the best version of yourself you can be. I was really happy with the way our guys tried to do that. There were a lot of guys trying to do their job tonight.”
Battles caught three passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers, while Roberts snagged two passes for 111 yards and a score. Fry hauled in three catches for 50 yards and a touchdown, and Carnel Davis rushed for 47 yards on seven carries and a touchdown in the first half. Green carried the ball 21 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
Wherwein finished with 46 yards and a touchdown on four carries for the Lions.
Sardis hosts Guntersville next Friday (Oct. 2), while Southside hosts Springville as both teams start back into region play.