By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Southside High was outscored 28-7 in the second half en route to a 42-28 loss to Class 6A, Region 7 rival Albertville last Friday (Oct. 21) at Barney Hood Stadium.
The loss dropped the Panthers (5-4, 2-4) into fifth place in the region, while the Aggies (7-2, 4-2) clinched the fourth and final playoff seed.
Southside had built a 21-6 lead early in the second quarter before Albertville pulled within 21-14 at halftime.
The visitors took the lead on a pair of third quarter TDs, but Southside tied the game at 28-28 on Kenneth Bothwell’s touchdown run and Nolan Johnson’s PAT with just over two minutes left in the period.
The Panthers wound running just six more offensive plays, however, the final two being turnovers with under six minutes to play.
It didn’t help Southside’s cause when following Bothwell’s score, the visitors put together a 13-play, 72-yard possession that ended with Wil Appleton’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Waits at 8:29. Just as important as providing the Aggie with a seven-point lead, the series consumed more than six minutes of clock time.
The ensuing Panther drive stalled out on a failed fourth down conversion attempt, and four plays later Jacob Dendy scored from 11 yard out to make it a two-possession game with 6:03 left.
Twice the hosts took possession the rest of the way, and twice they gave the ball right back to Albertville. Caleb Marsh’s interception at 5:54 and Brandon Stewart’s pick with 3:11 on the clock effectively prevented the Panthers from mounting a comeback.
Southside head coach Ron Daugherty acknowledged that five Panther turnovers – including three in the second half – were contributing factors in the loss.
“We really felt like this game was ours to lose at times, but we just made some mistakes in the second half that we’re not used to making. It’s really a simple game; when you line up wrong, step on someone’s foot, don’t make tackles, fumble the ball away or throw an interception, you;re giving [the other team] a chance to score, and you can’t do those things in the type of region we’re in and expect to win.
“But I don’t want to take anything away from Albertville; they came in with a great game plan and the way their quarterback played after being out injured for five weeks showed some amazing heart.”
Albertville finished with a 435 to 296 advantage in total yardage, although the Panthers outrushed the Aggies by a 281 to 155 margin.
Baylon Fry paced the Southside ground game with 102 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Bothwell ran 12 times for 89 yards and two scores. Alaric Williams added 71 yards on nine attempts.
The Panther offense started off the game with a three-and-out, but two plays into the initial Albertville series, Jarren Wright covered a fumble at the SHS 3-yard line.
A 23-yard run by Bothwell helped moved the hosts to the Aggie 27, from where Fry bulled his way into the end zone. Johnson split the uprights for the 7-0 lead at 6:16 of the first quarter.
A second straight Albertville three-and-out led to a second straight Fry touchdown run. The brief four-play series featured a 27-yard ramble from Alaric Williams. Johnson’s PAT made it 14-0 at the 2:31 mark.
The Aggies quickly cut into that advantage,as 23 seconds later Appleton and Cory Collier connected for a 70-yard TD to make it 14-6.
Twelve seconds into the second quarter, Bothwell polished off a nine-play, 46-yard possession with his five-yard TD run. With Johnson’s PAT, the Panthers moved ahead by a 21-6 margin.
Neither team could convert respective interceptions (Austin Willingham for Southside, Landon Pannell for Albertville) into points later in the period, while Triston Shaw’s 60-yard touchdown pass to Fry was called back on a penalty.
The Aggies, however, closed the gap to 21-14 on Dendy’s 13-yard touchdown run with 2:23 left before the half.
Matters failed to take a turn for the better for the hosts in the third quarter. The Panther defense forced a three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half, but Albertville quickly regained possession when Blake Landers recovered a fumble at the SHS 35 on the first play of the ensuing drive. Four plays later, Appleton ran it in from 16 yards away to force a 21-21 tie at 8:54.
The hosts once more went three-and-out, leading to Appleton’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Collier that gave AHS a 28-21 lead at 5:02.
Helped by respective 25-yard runs by Bothwell and Williams, Southside answered with Bothwell’s eight-yard TD knotting the game at 28-28.
The Panthers failed to make it into the end zone from that point on, however, ending Southside’s postseason hopes.
Appleton was 15 for-18 in passing for 279 yards, while Dendy rushed for 148 yards on 31 carries.
The Panthers close out the season this Friday (Oct. 28) at home against Glencoe.
“Our guys want to come back [this] week and play Southside football,” said Daugherty. “Just like Week 2 against Hokes Bluff, it’s a big rivalry game and it’s also our homecoming. I don’t that I’ll have much trouble firing up our kids for this one.”