By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Southside High’s hopes of both a third straight region title and first round home playoff game went up in smoke on Friday (Oct. 16) at Barney Hood Stadium.
The Panthers battled Scottsboro tooth and nail after falling behind by 21 points but ultimately lost 41-39 to their Class 6A, Region 7 rival.
As it currently stands, Southside (5-4, 3-2) must defeat Fort Payne on the road next week and hope that Albertville loses to Brewer and Scottsboro loses to Arab in order to claim the third or fourth playoff seed.
The Wildcats (3-5, 2-3) built a 28-7 lead midway through the second quarter before the Panthers scored a pair of touchdowns in less than three minutes to draw within 28-21 at halftime.
Southside remained hot on the visitors’ heels in the second half, closing within 35-33 on Baylon Fry’s 7-yard touchdown run with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
But Scottsboro kept the Panthers at bay when Bo Nix connected with Avery Sartin on a 3-yard scoring pass at the 10:32 mark of the fourth to make it 41-33.
Sartin made a big play on the ensuing kickoff by recovering an onside kick, but the possession stalled out at the Southside 37 when Tyler Abernathy sacked Nix for a 10-yard loss on fourth down.
The Panthers took advantage, driving 75 yards in 10 plays while going 3-for-3 in third down conversion, all by runs from Alaric Williams.
Fry’s 10-yard touchdown run just over four minutes left in the game cut the Wildcat lead to two points. Scottsboro once more stopped the two-point conversion attempt, leaving the hosts two points behind.
“That was a huge stop,” said Scottsboro head coach Patrick Nix. “That basically won the game for us.”
Taking over at their own 21 on the following series with 4:07 remaining, the Wildcats used three pass completions from Nix to Malik Talley to move to the 46. Dylan McQueen appeared to run for a first down that would have allowed Scottsboro to run out the clock, but the Wildcats were whistled for a personal foul, which led to a loss of down and forced a punt.
Southside only had 39 seconds to work with from its own 37, however, and two incomplete passes ran the clock out and gave Scottsboro its second region win of the season.
Bo Nix and Talley had big nights for the Jackson County squad. Nix was 14-for-28 in passing for 338 yards and four touchdowns, while Talley caught 10 passes for 252 yards and three scores. McQueen rushed for 118 yards on 11 carries.
“When you get to this time of year, the win/loss column doesn’t matter, and Scottsboro’s on the rise,” said Southside head coach Ron Daugherty. “I’m proud of the way our kids fought back like they did on both sides of the ball and on special teams, but we can’t make mistakes like we made tonight and still win. A little thing here and a little thing there, and it would have been a different result.”
Williams finished with 142 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries, while Fry ran 12 times for 77 yards two TDs.
After the Wildcats missed a 41-yard field goal at the 8:26 mark on the third quarter, Williams’ 14-yard touchdown run drew the Panthers within 28-27 at 5:17. That score was set by up Triston Shaw’s 40-yard pass to Fry. But Southside failed on the two-point conversion.
Three plays later, McQueen scored from 72 yards out to make it 35-27 at 3:40.
But Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards to the Wildcat 25, leading seven plays later to Fry’s 1-yard touchdown run. But the Panthers again failed on the two-point play and trailed 35-33 with 10 seconds left in the third.
The Panthers didn’t help their cause with a pair of lost fumbles in the first half that led to 14 Scottsboro points.
The Wildcats took a 7-0 lead on their first play from scrimmage, an 88-yard touchdown pass from Nix to Talley. The possession began when Cohen Tobbs recovered a Panther fumble at the Scottsboro 12.
Southside responded with Williams’ 7-yard scoring on the following series but Nix and Talley teamed up two plays later on a 65-yard touchdown at 2:46 of the first quarter.
On the first play of the second period, DeKarlos Billingsley found the end zone from six yards out for a 21-7 advantage, and then Nix and Talley teamed up again at 6:52 of the second quarter on a 55-yard scoring strike.
That 21-point advantage was short-lived. Williams’ 3-yard touchdown run at 5:03 made it 28-14, and Adam Lister’s fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff led to Hunter Armstrong’s 6-yard TD with 3:20 left before halftime.
“I’m so proud of out kids; they kept battling and battling,” said Nix. “Everyone told us all week that we couldn’t do it. We could have just given up and felt sorry for ourselves, but we found a way to win. We finally got everyone healthy and we started clicking.”