By Garry Robbins
Last Friday evening at Panther Stadium was “Pink Out “ night to promote awareness and support for breast cancer; however, those who attended witnessed one of the most, if not the most exciting games ever played at SMHS, a 41-38 overtime, District 6AAA thriller between the Warren County Pioneers and the SMHS Panthers, as Patrick Robinson booted a 21-yard field goal to give the hosts the victory.
Warren County then took over and moved the ball to the one-yard line. On third and goal, Lusk attempted to reach the ball over the goal line, but the Panther defense forced a fumble, with Chandler VanNatter picking the ball out of the air to give the win to the Panthers.
It has been said, “football is a game of inches,” and that is true; however, it is also a game of opportunities and Stone used their opportunities, along with every second of the 48 minutes on the clock to tie the game and send it to overtime.
It was a game of big plays, and Stone has been indicative of that this season and made enough to win in overtime.
Coach Mark Wattenbarger said in a pre-game interview that Warren County was “bigger, faster, and had more experience “ than his you Panther squad and that they “ would need good effort as a team to win.”
When Warren County took the field, it was obvious as to what Coach Wattenbarger spoke of in their size and speed, but in the end, the Panther head coach was well pleased with the effort of his team.
“Wow! They were bigger, faster and stronger than us, but we had more want to than they did! I couldn’t be prouder of a team. The stats weren’t that great, but we did a little bit of everything and didn’t do things to beat ourselves,” he said.
SMHS went three and out in their first first possession, giving the ball to Warren County, who wasted no time showing their speed and size as a factor in the game.
Drew Davidson, who split the time at quarterback, raced 48 yards for a score. Johnny Smith’s PAT was good to give the Pioneers a 7-0 lead with 6:27 left in the first quarter.
SMHS took over at their 27 and moved the ball on the legs of Nathaniel Clanton and Justin Johnson and a pass interference call; however, the drive stalled at the WC 14-yard line, where Patrick Robinson’s 31-yard field goal was wide left.
The Pioneers took over at the 20-yard line after the missed field goal, where Tristan Reish raced 80-yards for a TD, which was negated by holding penalty, which plagued the Pioneers all evening.
After a sack by Seth Seiber and a personal foul penalty, the Pioneers punted back to the Panthers at the WC 34-yard line.
On third and six, Brian Frye raced 30 yards for the Panthers’ frst score of the evening. Robinson’s PAT tied the game at 7-7 with 13 seconds left in the first quarter.
After the SMHS kickoff went out of bounds, Warren County took over at the 35-yard line.
The speedy D’Andre League took a bubble screen 50 yards, but SMHS’ Brandon Stedam recorded a sack to bring up fourth and five, where Smith drilled a 33-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead.
After SMHS’ next possession stalled after a dropped pass and a delay game of penalty, the Pioneers took over after a Brady Wattenbarger punt, another score was wiped out by a penalty.
Cameron Lusk later scored on a 10-yard run and the PAT made it 17-7.
An unsportsmanlike penalty on the PAT was enforced on the kickoff and Austin Helton found a seam and busted a big return with the kicker making a touchdown-saving tackle at the 10-yard line.
Johnson carried the ball and tacklers into the end zone. Robinson’s PAT was good to make the score 17-14 with 4:33 left in the half.
Momentum swang on the ensuing kick, as the Pioneers fumbled a pooch kick which was recovered by the Panthers. On third and nine, Brady Wattenbarger hooked up with Brian Frye for a big play to the two-yard line, where Clanton powered his into the end zone to give the Panthers the lead at 21-17.
Robinson’s ensuing kickoff was fumbled again, with Stone recovering at Warren County 34-yard line.
Behind the offensive line of Chase Eichner, Sam England, Nick Bohannon, Cole McDaniel and Ben Kindred, Johnson and Clanton pounded it to the five-yard line, where Clanton scored, followed by Robinson’s PAT for a 28-17 advantage with 2:40 left in the half.
On the first play after the kickoff, Adam Stine picked off a Warren County pass from Pioneer quarterback Hunter Mullican and raced to the Pioneer 17-yard line; however, Brady Wattenbarger was sacked on fourth down, turning the ball over on downs to the Pioneers with 52 seconds left in the half.
Instead of running out the clock, Lusk ran it from the one. After a pass reception which gave them the ball inside of the Panther 10-yard line, the Panthers led 28-24 at the end of the half.
Warren County received the second half kick and moved the ball methodically behind Lusk and Reish, who scored from 14-yards out for a 30-28 lead. The PAT gave the visitors a 31-28 advantage.
Stone’s first possession ended with a punt, but on fourth and three, the Panther defense stuffed the Pioneers to regain the ball on downs at the 38-yard line.
Brady Wattenbarger was intercepted, and a late hit put the ball at the 27-yard line to send the momentum back to Warren County.
A Stone defender slipped and League scored his second TD on a pass reception from Mullican. The PAT was good to give Warren County a 38-38 lead with 1:37 left in the third quarter and control of the game.
SMHS didn’t quit, as Johnson and Clanton continued to pound the ball; however, Brady Wattenbarger was sacked on back-to-back plays, forced a punt on fourth and 30.
With the 10-point lead, Warren County looked to put the game away, but were flagged with a personal foul penalty on the drive. Shadoe Smith made a big play in the Pioneer backfield to force a Pioneer punt.
SMHS took over at midfield with 5:57 left in regulation. At that point, assistant coach Matt Bates challenged his offensive line to come back to finish what they started.
On second and 16, Wattenbarger scrambled and was hit helmet to helmet for a personal foul and an automatic first down, and Warren County was flagged for pass interference on fourth and eight to keep the drive alive.
Johnson later scored on a three and six play. With Robinson’s PAT, SMHS cut the score to 38-35 with 3:12 left in regulation.
The Panther defense then held the Pioneers to three and out on their possession after the kick. The punt was partially blocked giving SMHS the ball at midfield with 1:23 left in regulation.
Wattenbarger patiently moved the ball with some help on pass interference penalty and roughing the passer call to keep the Panthers’ hopes alive.
After Clanton raced to the 10-yard line with 1.8 seconds left, Wattenbarger stopped the clock. Robinson then drilled a 27-yard field goal to tie the game at 38-38 to send the game to overtime.
As the late Paul Harvey would say, “now you know the rest of the story,” as the Robinson booted the go-ahead field goal and his Panther defensive mates held off the Pioneers to post the district victory.
SMHS improves to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in District 6AAA. The five wins tie the most wins in school history, as they head to Sequatchie County this Friday for a non-district battle.