By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
The Southside Crimson Panthers used a balanced offensive attack to break open a close game on their way a 44-29 victory over cross-county rival Hokes Bluff on Thursday (Aug. 25) at Barney Hood Stadium.
Southside head coach Ron Daugherty noted that the game was a “typical” Southside-Hokes Bluff matchup.
“Coach Rob did a heck of a job preparing his team for us,” he said. “We made some mistakes but fought back.”
Southside took a 16-14 lead on the last play of the first half with a 24-yard field goal by Nolan Johnson. The kick was set up by a Hokes Bluff fumble.
“That turnover was big at that point,” said Hokes Bluff head coach Mike Robertson. “That changed the momentum of the game.”
Southside was led by Alaric Williams, who rushed the ball 16 times for 153 yards, while Hokes Bluff was paced by Darrian Meades with 136 rushing yards on 24 carries.
The Panthers started the second half with two quick touchdowns to increase their lead to 30-14 in the first 6:17 of the third quarter.
A 20-yard pass from Triston Shaw to Devin Laster capped a 33-yard, four-play drive, while a 42-yard Shaw-to-Austin Winningham touchdown pass put Southside in control for good.
Hokes Bluff cut the Panther lead to 30-21 when Carson Eubanks returned a kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown, but Kenneth Bothwell, Jr., increased the Panther lead to 37-21 when he scored on a 9-yard run with 1:45 to go in the third quarter.
Hokes Bluff put together a 12-play, 61-yard scoring drive with 8:35 remaining in the fourth quarter when Johnson scored on a seven-yard run and Fisher Simmons carried in a 2-point conversion to close within 37-29, but a two-yard run by Adam Lister ended any hopes of an Eagle comeback.
Southside gained 528 yards in total offense. The Panthers rushed 45 times for 239 yards. Hokes Bluff finished with 204 yards rushing on 36 attempts.
Shaw was 8-of-11 in passing for 187 yards. Winningham had three catches for 145 yards.
Bothwell rushed 13 times for 101 yards, while Fray had 72 yards on 14 carries.
After Hokes Bluff won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, Southside took the opening kickoff and marched to the Hokes Bluff 10-yard line before turning the ball over on downs.
The Eagles then put together a 90-yard, seven-play scoring drive to go up 7-0 with 2:52 to go in the first quarter. The drive was capped with Landon Johnson’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Hill. Andrew Colley added the PAT.
The Panthers drew even with a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Shaw fired a 36-yard touchdown pass to Winningham to cut the lead to 7-6 with 11:49 to go in the half. Nolan Johnson added the PAT.
Hokes Bluff answered with a 63-yard, 11-play scoring drive to go up 14-7. Fisher Simmons scored on a three-yard run with 6:36 to go in the half.
The Panthers roared right back when Baylon Fry scored on a 16-yard run to cut the lead to 14-13 following a blocked PAT. Johnson’s last-second field goal then sent the hosts into halftime with a two-point lead.
“This was a good game for us,” said Robertson. “Southside has a really good offense and wore us down in the second half. But our team gave a really good effort.”
Johnson was 7-of-12 in passing for 72 yards. He also ran seven times for 35 yards. Hill had five receptions for 64 yards.
“I’m proud of our kids,” said Daugherty. “We made several mistakes but found a way to win.”
Southside (2-0) hosts Fort Payne next week, while Hokes Bluff (0-1) travels to Cherokee County.