Tough win puts Panthers in playoffs

Posted 11/4/21

That teamwork thing seems to fit the 2021 Alba-Golden Panthers pretty well. Having re-discovered it last week in Bogata, the Panthers displayed it in spades Friday by coming back in the second half …

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Tough win puts Panthers in playoffs


That teamwork thing seems to fit the 2021 Alba-Golden Panthers pretty well. Having re-discovered it last week in Bogata, the Panthers displayed it in spades Friday by coming back in the second half to record a 20-13 win over the visiting Honey Grove Warriors.

The Panthers came out focused and determined. They took the game’s opening series 52 yards in nine plays to open the scoring. The drive was all on the ground. The longest pick up was 13 yards. Shawn Gaskill scored, behind some great blocking, up the middle from six yards out. 

The ensuing kick-off was a strange play. The kick was a hard-struck, low liner that passed through the body of the Honey Grove deep man. Once the returner chased the ball down, the kick coverage team had lost its spacing. Two nice cuts and some great speed gave the Warriors the ball at the Panthers 26-yard line. 

Alba-Golden made them earn the score. Honey Grove needed ten plays, which included a reverse and a fourth-and-1 conversion, to reach the end zone.  

After each team had one possession, the score stood Honey Grove 7, Alba-Golden 6.

Alba-Golden gave Honey Grove a break early in the second quarter. The Panthers lost a fumble as their next drive neared mid-field. The Warriors took over at the Panther 48-yard line. 

Successive stand-out defensive stops by Shawn and Michael Gaskill, Jerry Skinner and Eathan Thorn and Skinner and Shawn Gaskill left the Warriors with a fourth-and-5. A fourth down defensive pass interference penalty, however, gave the Warriors a first down at the 13-yard line.

Honey Grove scored three plays later and took a 13-6 lead.

Alba-Golden threatened once more before the half. Easton Campbell connected with Michael Gaskill on a 42-yard pass and run. The Alba-Golden drive stalled however, and the score remained in Honey Grove’s favor at the half.

The Panthers sent a strong message on the opening series of the second half. Honey Grove was stuffed on their initial possession. Negative stops by Erin Hubbard, Shawn Gaskill and Skinner communicated a message of physicality. 

The strong effort continued on the offensive side of the ball. Alba-Golden tied the score after a 13-play drive. Shawn Gaskill scored on an 11-yard carry over the left side. The offensive line simply gashed the visitors on this scoring drive, while Gaskill alternated grinding carries with Glen Hartley.

Honey Grove used another big kick off return to make their only significant effort of the half. The Warriors repeatedly gained the edge of the defense on sweeps and quick pitches. They faced a fourth-and-3 from the Panthers’ 18-yard line. 

After a time out, Honey Grove went back to the well and tried to gain the right edge. Adjustments made during the time out placed the Panthers defense in perfect position to deny the play. Alba-Golden took over possession. 

The fourth quarter passed with neither team threatening. Alba-Golden recorded four possessions and Honey Grove three. 

Honey Grove’s only offensive production was killed by a fumble, while the Panthers were able to reach the Warriors’s 35-yard line but turned the ball over on downs. 

With just over a minute to play, it was a fumbled snap which gave Alba-Golden one more chance to claim victory. The effort to reach that fumble requires special note. Defensive end Jerry Skinner somehow reached the ball in the Warriors’ backfield which lay at the feet of the Honey Grove quarterback. 

Skinner’s effort gave the Panthers just what they needed. Six plays later, Shawn Gaskill rambled through the left side, ran through an arm-tackle at the 5-yard line and crashed through the defense into the end zone for a score. With :13 on the clock, Alba-Golden took a 20-13 lead. 

A Blake Weissert interception in the final moments secured the win. 

This Panther team is different. There used to be folks who would expect the team to fold after going down 13-6 early in the game. That is not this group. 

The Panthers steadily dominated the opposition from that point on. They outgained Honey Grove 271 to 130 yards on the night. In the second half, the Panthers gave up a total of 52 yards. 

Offensively, there was no panic. There was some late-game blocking and aggressive running. It was a team effort, a team win and the second one in a row.

The Panthers finish their regular season Friday at Como-Pickton, with a playoff spot ahead.