Photo: Southside’s Silas Osborne (9) and Tytan Rich (34) pursue Boaz quarterback Tyler Pierce during the Panthers’ 10-7 loss in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs on Friday, Nov. 10 at Barney Hood Stadium. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Southside finished three points short of the program’s first playoff victory in five years on Friday, Nov. 10 at Barney Hood Stadium.
Trailing Boaz 10-7 with 90 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Southside faced a do-or-die- fourth down and 19 from the Pirate 49-yard line. The Panthers looked like they were in business when quarterback Jordan Bryan connected with Cayden McMichael on a crossing route. McMichael went low to make the catch and tried to avoid contact with the ground, but his knee was ruled down at the Boaz 33, two yards short of the first down marker.
Boaz took over on downs and knelt three times to run out the clock, ending Southside’s season at 8-2.
The Pirates (6-5) gained a measure of revenge from when the teams met on September 29, when the Panthers edged Boaz in overtime by a score of 48-45. The Pirates host Pleasant Grove in the second round on Friday, Nov. 17.
With the respective defenses combining to force 10 punts and holding on four fourth down conversion attempts over the game’s first 32 minutes, the game was scoreless until late in the third quarter when McMichael provided Southside prime field position with a 35-yard punt return to the Boaz 34. Halfback Mason Teague took it to the house on the first play from scrimmage, and Caleb Ogle pushed through the extra point for a 7-0 lead at the 1:59 mark.
Boaz answered on the ensuing possession, a seven-play, 70-yard drive that was highlighted by a 39-yard pass completion from Tyler Pierce to Jakai Hudgins that put the Pirates at the Southside 20.
The Panther defense allowed a yard over the next three plays to force a field goal attempt, which Jose Arreguin pushed through the uprights from 37 yards away with 23 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Koal Garrett’s 38-yard return of the following kickoff put the ball near midfield, but the series netted minus-five yards, forcing Southside to punt.
Starting at its own 21, Boaz converted three third downs and one fourth down to get inside the Panther 10, where on third down and 7 Pierce threw to Tyler Sullivan for a touchdown. With Arreguin’s PAT, the Pirates went ahead 10-7 at the halfway mark of the fourth quarter.
Southside then made it to its own 48 before having to punt, and Boaz soon embarked on what turned out to be the game-winning drive.
The Panthers got the ball back at their own 13 after Pierce’s touchdown pass, and four straight Teague runs moved the ball to the Southside 26. Southside then pulled out some razzle-dazzle when Bryant pitched the ball to Teague, who completed a pass to Garrett all the way to the Pirate 39.
Three plays later, Bryan and McMichael teamed up for a 39-yard touchdown pass, but the play was nullified by a holding penalty.
Pirate safety Elijah Kelley broke up a pass on third and 19 that was intended for Garrett, who was standing beyond the first down marker. That set up McMichael’s close-but-not-close enough reception, sending the Panthers packing for the 2023 season.
Teague rushed for 141 yards on 21 carries, while Bryan was 5 of 14 in passing for 117 yards. He also gained 56 yards on nine carries. McMichael had three receptions for 73 yards.
The Southside defense bent somewhat but did not break in the first half, forcing five punts and holding on a pair of fourth down conversion attempts. The Panthers missed two field goal attempts, one from 41 yards out and another from 39 yards away.
Jevonte Strong finished with 13 tackles, followed by Brody McCutcheon and Brayden Bowers with 12 each, Tytan Rich and Kolby Dodd with 10 each, Blake Phillips with nine, Silas Osborne and Cameron Flowers with six each and Brody Burnett with five.