Alba-Golden Panthers improve to 4-0
Every football game presents unique challenges. This past Friday, the challenge posed by the Big Sandy Wildcats to the Alba-Golden Panthers was that the Wildcats had some talented wide receivers, …
Alba-Golden Panthers improve to 4-0
Every football game presents unique challenges. This past Friday, the challenge posed by the Big Sandy Wildcats to the Alba-Golden Panthers was that the Wildcats had some talented wide receivers, tall and speedy with good hands. Alba-Golden proved they were more than up to the challenge.
The Panthers demonstrated their team traits of excellent conditioning and aggressiveness to best the visitors 43-25. In the process, Alba-Golden operated an effective, game-changing passing attack of their own, to match their productive ground game.
The Panthers racked up 527 yards from scrimmage and used two defensive scores to catapult them into a big 37-13 lead at the half.
Each of those defensive scores merits greater description.
The Panthers had driven the ball to the Wildcats’ 7-yard line in their opening possession before turning it over on downs.
On Big Sandy’s second snap from scrimmage, the Wildcat halfback flared out of the backfield. He had a lot of green in front of him, and the pass hit him in stride. Cornerback Braydon Randolph was covering the wide-out to that side. He saw the play unfold and reacted exactly on cue.
His textbook tackle popped the ball out of the halfback’s belly. Safety Payton Dickinson was closing in support. He promptly scooped the ball and scored.
The play gave the Panthers the first score of the night and set the tempo for a half of football dominated by Alba-Golden.
The second defensive score came with two minutes to play in the half. Alba-Golden was leading 31-13, but the Wildcats had the ball near midfield and were looking to close the margin before halftime.
On a first-down, the Wildcats threw a deep ball down the southern sideline. Panther Gavin Parker made an athletic play on the ball, out-jumping the taller receiver to knock it away.
Two snaps later, the Wildcats tried the same long pass play. Parker played the ball like a receiver, made the interception and turned up-field. He accelerated up the numbers, collected some blocks and broke to the sideline. The 70-yard interception return touchdown gave the Panthers a 37-13 lead at the break.
Panther defenders Cameron Lennon and Randolph joined Parker by recording interceptions.
The Panthers defended 48 pass attempts on the night. They gave up three big plays, two of which went for scores.
The Wildcats were doing their best to tire the Panthers. They widened the field by using a multitude of wide receiver screens. The Panthers were not wearing down. Often, it was the Wildcat offense which looked to be catching their breath.
Although Alba-Golden did not record a sack, they pressured the Wildcat quarterback all night, especially left defensive end Jerry Skinner.
In that decisive first half, Panther speedster Glen Hartley was having a field day. Using a delayed hand-off, Hartley spent the first half slicing through the middle of the Wildcat defense. Once in the secondary, he simply out-raced the defenders to the end zone.
Hartley scored on runs of 66, 21, and 18 yards. On his long scoring run, the offensive line had given him a choice of which gap to exploit.
The remaining Alba-Golden score of the first half illustrated the progress that the Panther passing attack has made this year.
On a first down from the Panther 43-yard line, Campbell took the shotgun snap and faked the standard off tackle hand-off to the right side. He sprinted to the left. The Wildcat defense was occupied by the blocking movement to the right as well as the two receivers split to the right side. Tight end Skinner came off the line and headed deep on a flag route, away from the momentum of the play. Campbell hit him with a perfect strike, and the Panthers were in the end zone again.
Four crushing tackles in the first half, two by Gavin Terry and one each by Skinner and Jason Langsten, seemed to force Big Sandy to abandon their running game. At halftime, the Panthers no doubt readied themselves for a relentless air attack in the second half.
The Wildcats did begin to move the ball; however, Randolph picked-off a Wildcat pass near midfield to kill their best drive of the third quarter.
Late in the quarter Campbell delivered an arcing pass to Payton Dickinson on a wheel route down the north sideline which gave Alba-Golden a 43-13 lead after three quarters.
Big Sandy didn’t relent. They scored on two fourth quarter drives, almost exclusively through the air. In each, the score came on amazing catches in the back corner of the end zone.
The Panthers had, however, demonstrated control of the game. They killed the last 6:23 with a typical 10-play 45-yard drive.
Friday begins the second season, as the Panthers open district play at Boles. The team has shown some excellent characteristics in their four-win start to the 2022 season. Most notably are their composure and sense of team. It distinguishes them from their opponents and predecessors. Both attributes will be needed in a very tough District 9-2A.