The Sweetwater Wildcats spoiled the Stone Memorial Panthers home opener Friday night, as they posted a 21-8 victory on Panther Field.
The Wildcats took the opening kickoff at their 25-yard line, but fumbled on the fourth play of the drive, with Thomas Janow recovering the ball at the 34-yard line.
SMHS' first series began with three consecutive runs by Larry Breeden for a total of 23 yards. Shortly thereafter, Panther quarterback Brady Wattenbarger coaxed the Wildcats offsides with an audilble call which allowed the Panthers to convert on a fourth and one opportunity and set the Panthers up with a fresh set of downs deep inside Sweetwater territory.
A couple of more rushes by Janow and then a nice Wattenbarger to Janow pass completion on fourth and four gave the Panthers a first down at the Wildcat 16. However, a Panther fumble on the ensuing first-down play stopped the Panthers crack at jumping out to an early lead.
Nice pass coverage by Grant Cooper on the Wildcats' first-down play, then a illegal procedure penalty one play later forced the Wildcats into a third and 11 play.
Wildcat quarterback Andrew Barr was able to complete the pass, but the ball was knocked away by SMHS defensive back Adam Stine, creating another turnover for the Panthers defense.
A 13-yard Breeden pass reception, followed by a 10-yard Breeden run, once again set the Panthers up inside the red zone (20-yard line). A nice job by the Panther offensive line allowed Breeden and Janow to churn the ball inside the Sweetwater five-yard line, but the drive stalled when the Panthers couldn't convert a fourth down and two situation.
From the shadow of their own goal, Sweetwater marched 95 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown behind the strong running of Jordan McGauhey and Eli Arwood. McGaughy capped the drive with a three-yard TD run, with the PAT making it 7-0 with 6:51 remaining in the half.
A three and out on the Panthers' next offensive series forced a quick punt. Sweetwater struck again, as McGaughey dashed 15-yards for his second TD first-half touchdown. Garrett Zickgraf's PAT staked the visitors to a 14-0 advantage.
With the score 14-0, the Panthers scored on their second offensive series of the second half. A short Sweetwater punt gave SMHS excellent field position at the Wildcat 32-yard line. Janow opened the drive with a nine-yard dash and ended the march with a 15-yard scamper to paydirt to close the gap to 14-6.
Unfortunately for Panther fans, it didn't take long for the Wildcats to answer. A splendid tackle by Panther defensive lineman Gordon VanHoy backed the Wildcats into a three down and very long situation, but the visitors completed a 43-yard TD strike from Andrew Barr to Nick Wicker to push the advantage to 21-6 with 3:09 left in the third quarter.
Junior Brian Frye's kickoff return started the Panthers next possession with a bang, but a 15-yard penalty pushed the Panthers back to their own 31-yard line.
The Panther offense picked up a first down, but were forced to punt. A great punt by Wattenbarger nailed the Wildcats inside the five-yard line.
Panther defenders nailed a Wildcat runner for a two-yard loss, with a safety resulting on the next play, as the Panther defense tackled Barr in the end zone for two points to slice the lead to 21-8.
Janow returned the ensuing kick to the Sweetwater 36-yard line with just over 11 minutes left in the game. Breeden and Janow teammed up on a couple of carries to give the Panthers a first down inside the 25.
Wattenbarger then hit Seth Seiber at the 14-yard line and Frye to get the Panthers inside the 10.
However, an untimely holding penalty and a bobbled center to quarterback exchange thwarted the last scoring opportunity of the contest for the Panthers.
SMHS (0-2, 0-0) opens District 4AA play at CAK Friday at 6:30 p.m. The Warriors are coached by Rusty Bradley and are 2-0 on the season, after defeating Anderson County 76-45 in their opener and Darling School of Georgia, 42-23, Saturday night. Wideout Josh Smith and Brett Kendrick are Tennessee commitments, according the News-Sentinel's PrepXtra.
(Editor's note: Shane Wyatt contributed to this story.)