Photo: Southside’s Cody Roberts (left) catches as pass as Hokes Bluff’s Anderson Morgan defends during the Panthers’ 42-7 victory in high school football on August 25 at Hokes Bluff. (Photo by Alex Chaney)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
With Hokes Bluff trailing Southside by just seven points at halftime on Thursday, Conner Masters’ 72-yard touchdown pass to Cole Stone on the first play of the third quarter put the host Eagles right back in the ball game.
Unfortunately for the hosts, that score proved to be the highwater mark for Coach Rob’s squad.
Starting with Gauge Nesmith’s 1-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter and ending with Mason Teague’s 62-yard TD run with three minutes remaining in the game, the Panthers scored 35 unanswered points en route to a 42-7 victory at Mike Robertson Field.
The win improved Southside’s record in the rivalry to 33-38-3.
Other than the Eagles’ long touchdown pass early in the second half, the Panther defense held Hokes Bluff in check for most of the game. Out of the Eagles’ nine offensive possessions, three ended in a punt, one on a missed field goal, two on an interception, one on a blocked punt and one on a lost fumble.
“You knew going into the game that Hokes Bluff would play us as hard as anyone will, and they did,” said Southside head coach Miles Holcomb. “But our kids did what they were supposed to do, and they played hard. That’s kind of our expectations at this point.”
Holcomb acknowledged that the Panthers did not help their cause with 16 penalties for 140 yards, pointing out that two of Hokes Bluff three first-half possessions were extended by yellow flags.
“Our defense was on the field for 42 minutes, which is a crazy amount of time to be out there for. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot [with penalties]. We cleaned up in the turnovers area from last week (in a 21-7 loss to Guntersville), but going into region play, [penalties] is something that has to be addressed going forward.”
Mason Teague paced the Southside ground game with 132 yards on 17 carries. Cody Roberts was a big factor for the Panthers offense, catching five passes for 48 yards and rushing 10 times for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Nesmith was 10 for 14 in passing for 124 yards. He also ran for 36 yards on two carries. Titan Rich led defensively with 13 tackles, followed by Braydon Bowers with nine, Brody McCuthcheon and Blake Phillips with eight each, Raytheon Novak and Evan McDonald with six each and Jerrod Harden with five. Rich also had a sack.
For Hokes Bluff Noah Sprayberry rushed for 146 yards on 22 attempts. Stone led defensively with seven tackles.
“We did some good things, but we’ve got a way to go,” said Hokes Bluff head coach Mike Robertson. “I thought we played for two and a half quarter, and then we made a couple of mistakes and we dropped out heads a little bit. I’m a little disappointed in the last six or seven minutes, when it seemed like we shut it down a little bit.”
Southside scored the lone touchdown of the first half on a 3-yard run by Roberts and Abdullah Allabassi’s extra point with 1:17 left in the first quarter. Allabassi was a perfect 6-for-6 on the night.
The Eagles’ ensuing 12-play, 49-yard drive ended with a missed field goal from 28 yards out.
Koal Garrett’s interception at the halftime buzzer preserved the Panthers’ 7-0 lead.
Masters’ touchdown pass early in the second half put Hokes Bluff right back in the game, and the momentum from that score continued when the Eagle defense forced a punt on the next Southside drive. That possession lasted all but three plays before Garrett came up with his second pick of the game at the Hokes Bluff 26-yard line. Four plays later, Nesmith banged it in from a yard out to give the visitors the lead for good.
The fourth quarter was all Southside. Nesmith’s 33-yard touchdown run at 10:30 pushed the Panther advantage to 27-7, while Scotty Motes returned a blocked punt 35 yards for a touchdown at the 7:32 mark.
Later in the quarter, Southside’s Blake Phillips recover a fumble at the Eagle 10, and Roberts scored on the next play to put the Eagles in a 35-7 hole. Any hopes of a late rally by Hokes Bluff were dashed following Teague’s long touchdown run in the final minutes
Southside opens its Class 5A, Region 6 schedule next Friday (Sept. 2) at home against Lincoln.
“You know that [Lincoln] Coach [Matt] Zedaker] is going to have his team playing hard,” said Holcomb. “On offense, they’re going to be physical and go downhill at you. On defense, their safeties are good enough to play deep and still play the run game well. Both teams are big and athletic, so it will be a good test for us. You can’t take any team for granted in this region.”
Hokes Bluff travels to Glencoe on September 2 to open Class 3A, Region 6 play.
“Glencoe is always Glencoe, but at this point, we have to worry more about ourselves that who we’re going to play,” said Robertson. “We got to get some guys to play better and we have to coach better.”