Panthers produce against Hokes Bluff

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Photo: Southside quarterback Gauge NeSmith hands off to Mason Teague during the Panthers’ 37-12 victory over Hokes Bluff in high school football on Aug. 31 at SHS. (Courtesy of Average Joe’s Sports Talk)

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

After being held to one touchdown in a loss to Guntersville last week, Southside experienced relatively little difficulty in reaching the end zone on Thursday, Aug. 31.
Facing Hokes Bluff in the 74th meeting of the Etowah County rivals, the Panthers (1-1) scored three touchdowns in the first half and two more in the third quarter on the way to a 37-12 victory at Barney Hood Stadium.
Southside rolled up 447 total yards, with 397 coming on the ground. Mason Teague reached the 200-yard plateau for the second week in a row, rushing for 224 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. Teague had 174 yards and two TDs under his belt by halftime.
Before leaving the game midway through the third quarter with an injury, senior quarterback Gauge NeSmith gained 100 yards on three carries, including an 85-yard touchdown run early in the second half. NeSmith was 4 for 5 in passing for 40, with Jordan Bryan catching all four passes. Koal Garrett ran four times for 47 yards, while Jamel Boyd gained 41 yards on four carries.
The Panther defense more than held its own in limiting the Eagles to 190 total yards and forcing five punts, including three straight during the third quarter when Hokes Bluff managed 29 yards from scrimmage.
Blain Barron led the Eagles on the ground with 60 yards on 16 carries, while Bryce Whitaker added 38 yards on 10 attempts. Whitaker was 3 for 10 in passing for 53 yards, with Anderson Morgan catching two passes for 14 yards. Logan Weimann finished with eight tackles, followed by Brodie Brogdon with five.
Southside had to overcome a few self-inflicted wounds during the course of the game in committing several penalties, two of which cost the Panthers a pair of touchdowns.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a few times, but we were able to find a way to get into the end zone a few times and we played well all the way around,” said Southside head coach Miles Holcomb. “Our guys knew that they played well enough to win against Guntersville, and they were locked in at practice this week. It was a great win against a big county rival.”
The Panthers took the lead for good on their opening possession, a 76-yard drive that culminated in Teague’s 15-yard touchdown run and Caleb Ogle’s extra point.
The Southside defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing Eagle series, but the Panthers soon gave the ball back when Anderson intercepted a pass in Southside territory midway through the first period.
An 18-yard scamper by Barron set Hokes Bluff up at the Panther 1, where Whitaker rammed it up the middle for the score. The point after failed, but the Southside lead was cut to 7-6 at the 3:23 mark.
A 35-yard return by Cayden McMichael and an unsportsmanlike penalty on Hokes Bluff on the following kickoff provided the hosts with good field position. Seven plays later, NeSmith and Bryan connected for a 16-yard touchdown to push the lead to 14-6.
The Panthers soon extended their advantage to double digits after Teague ripped off a 68-yard run to place Southside inside the Eagle 20. The senior halfback finished what he started two plays later with a 10-yard TD run, sending the Panthers into halftime ahead 21-6.
After Hokes Bluff went three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half, NeSmith took the ball 85 yards to the house on the first play from scrimmage. Ogle’s PAT made it 28-6 at 9:25 of the third quarter.
The Panthers effectively put the game out of reach on the next two possessions. First, a 75-yard, five -yard series eventually resulted in Teague’s third touchdown of the game. Second, the Southside special teams notched a safety when the Hokes Bluff punter kicked the ball out of the end zone.
Whitaker’s two-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter closed the gap to 37-12, and the teams exchanged punts and made numerous substitutions the rest of the way.
Southside travels to Lincoln on Friday, Sept. 8, while Hokes Bluff hosts Glencoe.
“Lincoln is somewhat similar to Hokes Bluff in that they like to operate out of the I formation and are a physical, downhill team,” said Holcomb. “They’re also pretty athletic with two backs that can really go. Personnel-wise, they’re always pretty tough, so we’ll have our hands full. “

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