By Ed Greif
The Stone Memorial Panther football team's Class 5A playoff run ended Friday night at Ooltewah, as the Owls flew past the Panthers 47-7, ending the season at 6-5 overall. The six wins were most ever for a SMHS team in school history.
This was the Panthers' third appearance in the playoffs in five years, dropping games in both 2009 and 2011.
The Panthers' first possession was three plays and out, giving the pigskin to the Owls at midfield, with Owl quarterback Brody Binder completing two passes for 42 yards for a first down in the red zone at the Panther 13.
Edward Hayes carried twice for 10 yards to the Panther three-yard line, but fumbled on his second carry with Adam Stine recovering for SMHS.
Another three plays and out gave the ball right back to the Owls at the Stone 42. Eight plays later, Binder passed six yards to Anthony Turner for a 6-0 lead with 4:01 remaining in the first quarter. Laslo Tosser's PAT made it 7-0.
Brian Frye returned the ensuing kick 17 yards to the Panther 18-yard line. Justin Johnson and Keith Sadula picked up 22 yards on six carries to the Panther 40-yard line, as the first quarter concluded.
Stine, Chandler VanNatter, Seth Seiber, Austin Helton and Carlos Barnette led the Panther defense, while Panther offense had just 35 yards rushing.
The Panther drive stalled at the Panther 40, forcing a punt and giving the ball to the Owls at the Ooltewah 37-yard line.
Ooltewah mixed running (five carries for 55 yards) and passing (two for three for 13 yards) to take a 13-0 lead on a four-yard run by Omari Kendrick with 9:26 left in the half. Kendrick was the primary ball carrier. The two-point conversion failed.
After another three-play and out by the Panthers, Ooltewah took over at their 17-yard line. Rashaun Freeman exploded for an 83-yard run for a touchdown to give the hosts a 19-0 lead with 8:01 left in the contest. The PAT was good for a 20-0 on a cold, crisp evening in Ooltewah.
Again, the Panthers went three plays and out, giving the ball back to the District 5AAA co-champions at the Owl 40-yard line. Seven plays later, Binder scored from four yards out for a 26-0 advantage with 5:49 left in the half. Binder completed two of four passes for 43 yards, while Kendrick carried the ball twice for 12 yards.
The Panthers took over at their 20, but two plays later, the fumbled, giving the ball right back to the Owls at the Panther 24. Kendrick capped the four-play drive with an eight-yard TD run for a 32-0 lead with 3:36 left in the half. The PAT was good for a 33-0 lead. Kendrick carried the ball four times for 24 yards.
SMHS took over at their 20. Justin, Nathaniel Clanton and Sadula carried the ball eight times for 24 yards, before Brady Wattenbarger took to the air, His second pass was intercepted by Adrian Hall for a 53-yard TD with 42.7 seconds left in the half. The PAT made it 40-0.
SMHS ran two plays as time ran out in the half.
Adam Stine, Seiber, Nick Bohannonm, Nathan Stine, Ethan Pierce, Brian Frye and Shadoe Smith led the Panther defense.
The TSSAA mercy rule kicked in the third quarter with Ooltewah leading 40-0 at the break.
Ooltewah took the football at their 40 to open the half and drove the distance in 11 plays to take a 46-0 lead on a pass from Kelvin Leon to Blake Smith, as Owl younger players took the field. The PAT was good for a 47-0 advantage.
The Panthers took the ensuing kick at their 20-yard line. SMHS had its best offensive of the contest, using the running of Johsnon, Barnett and Clanton to pick up 18 yards on four carries, while Brady Wattenbarger completed two of three passes for 15 yards as the third quarter ended. Frye and Clanton had the pass receptions.
SMHS picked up 22 more yards rushing on carries by Clanton, but the drive stalled on downs at the Owl 15.
The Panther defense led by Barnett and Cole McDaniel held the Owls to three-plays and out, forcing a 22-yard punt to midifield.
Johnson carried four times for 35 yards for a couple of first downs, and Clanton had two carries for 41 yards, including a one-yard run for a TD with 1:19 left in the game. Patrick Robinson booted the PAT to make the score 47-7.
Ooltewah ran a couple of plays as time expired in the game.
Johnson rushed for 83 yards on 17 carries, while Clanton had 57 yards on 14 carries with one touchdown. Brady Wattenbarger completed two of 11 passes for five yards with one interception.
Ooltewah rushed for 275 yards on 30 carries and completed eight of 21 passes for 130 yards. The Owls will host East Hamilton in the second round of the playoffs this Friday.