Panthers escape with win; thriller comes down to last play

PETAL, MS (WDAM) - Wayne County drove down to the Petal 10 yard line with under a minute to go in regulation, but couldn't cash in on a golden opportunity as time expired. Wayne County senior quarterback missed a wide open receiver in the end zone, and the Petal Panthers escaped with a 21-14 win.

The first half featured a tightly fought contest that included interceptions on both sides, big-yard gains, and a good amount of scoring. The Panthers got their first crack at the end zone with under ten minutes remaining in the first quarter.

With the ball around the 20 yard line, Panthers senior quarterback Anthony Alford rolled to his right, but tried to force a pass to sophomore wide out Jesse Jackson. Wayne County intercepted Alford's pass and escaped with no damage done.

The Panthers' (1-0) defense held up on the next drive, but turned the ball over on the punt as the ball hit the heel of a Panther and was recovered by the War Eagles (0-1). Wayne County took advantage of the mistake and struck first. Facing a fourth-and-fourteen, Wayne County senior quarterback Jaleel Lacey threw a perfect fade to the corner. Eagles receiver Randy Pettus hauled the pass in in the corner, and put the War Eagles up 7-0.

The very next drive, Alford took matters into his own hands. With the ball placed on his own 45-yard line, Alford first lined up in the shotgun formation, but seconds later received the snap under center, bolted right through the line and dashed 55 yards, untouched for the score and the equalizer.

Alford ran for 135 of the teams total 185 yards in the first half, and provided 23 yards through the air.

Wayne County struck back, and fast, following the Alford score. With one pass, Wayne County went from deep in its own territory to the Panthers' red zone. A few plays later, it was Lacey distributing again, this time throwing a dart over the middle that put the War Eagles up 14-7.

The eagles could have added more, but the panthers picked off Lacey twice in the first half. Senior linebacker Jared Smith stepped in front of a Lacey pass with under five minutes to play in the first half, ran it all the way back to the eagles two, which led to an Alford touchdown.

It was more of a defensive struggle for the second half, with Petal scoring the only seven points of the half with under four to go in the third. It is worth mentioning that Alford came off the field gingerly, and back-up junior Larson Barkurn lined up under center in his place, also scoring the go-ahead score.

The War Eagles got their last legitimate chance at a tie on their final drive, converting a fourth-down in the process. In the end, the Panthers came away with the victory.