Tigers escape with winPublished 11:12pm Friday, September 6, 2013
A botched snap with seconds remaining almost gave Georgiana School a final shot at the end zone for an upset victory, but the lead — and their shot at snapping a five game losing streak against in-county rival McKenzie School — remained barely out of reach.
McKenzie (2-0, 1-0 Class 1A, Region 2) held on for a 26-20 victory over the Panthers (1-1, 0-1 Class 1A, Region 2), led by a nearly-unstoppable backfield threat in McKenzie quarterback Terrance Clemons.
Clemons orchestrated two almost flawless drives early in the first quarter and met little to no resistance for McKenzie’s first two scores.
But Georgiana quarterback Jacquez Payton would fight a handful of false starts and difficult third down conversions to answer just as quickly in an open-field sprint for the Panthers’ first touchdown of the night.
Despite all of their offensive firepower, it was the Panthers’ defense that salvaged the first half, with a 61-yard fumble recovery in the end zone from Latrell Seals and a clutch goal line stand from the half-yard mark as the first half wound to a close.
But a disastrous Georgiana start to the third quarter killed any momentum built from the first half, with two false starts and two erroneous snaps leading to a fumble into the back of the end zone for a safety.
However, the true nail in the coffin would follow late in the fourth, as McKenzie’s own errant snap turned an easy jog-in for six into a Hail Mary situation on third and long.
But though two players came down with the ball, Georgiana’s Payton and McKenzie’s Nicarius Peterson, it was the latter who prevailed after snatching the potential interception out of Payton’s hands for the final McKenzie score.
“We knew it was going to be tough with the athletes that they have,” said McKenzie head coach Josh McLendon.
“We’ve been preaching all week to our guys that it was going to be a four-quarter game, and that’s what it was. The main thing is that we never quit, and that’s what we preach to our guys — keep playing and keep fighting, and good things will happen.”
A clutch fourth-and-seven connection from Payton to Demarcus Rich with two minutes to spare would come too late.
But Georgiana head coach Ezell Powell’s post-game speech to a tired Panther bunch was not filled with words of disappointment, but of pride.
“Don’t hold your head down, because you have absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about,” Powell said to his players.
“You all showed something tonight that you haven’t shown in a long time — you were down the whole time, but you never gave up.”