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Squadron lets region road win slip away

Highland Home head football coach Bob Farrior and his Squadron troops traveled into unfamiliar territory last Friday night as they rumbled up Interstate 85 to take on the Panthers of Lanett.

The small, east Alabama team slipped by with a slim, one-point 37-36 key Class 2A, Region 3 win over the Flyboys.

It was the first ever meeting between the schools and the Panthers used their run dominant offense to eat up time on the clock to secure their second region win.

Highland Home took the field on the offensive side of the ball to start the game. The Flying Squadron (1-4, 1-2) moved the ball down the field to the Panthers' 13-yard-line in just 10 plays, but defensive pressure from the home team caused Squadron quarterback Deymond Sankey to turn the ball over with 8:55 to go in the first stanza.

From that point, the black and gold Panthers drove 87 yards in 10 plays, while eating up 4:02 off the play clock to score their first touchdown of the game. Senior quarterback Eugene Bailey covered the final 11 yards on a run around right end to give Lanett a 6-0 lead.

On the Squadron answered right back on its ensuing possession as Sankey hit receiver Tony Merriweather on a fourth-and-six play from the Lanett 7-yard-line to put the visitors on the scoreboard. Highland Home took its first lead of the game when Sankey bulled his way up the middle for the two-point conversion to take an 8-6 lead. The scores capped off a seven-play, 54-yard drive.

After the Highland Home defensive bunch forced a Panther punt, the turnover bug bit its offense as receiver Jessie Webb dropped the pigskin at the 38-yard-line and Lanett linebacker Deontra Crump pounced on it as the horn sounded to end the opening quarter.

It only took the Panthers two minutes to cover the 38 yards to tally their second touchdown of the night as fullback Horatious Jennings galloped 20 yards for the score. Telyss Floyd ran in for the two-point conversion to give the home team a 14-8 lead.

Highland Home tied the score 25 seconds later when Sankey connected once again with Merriweather on a 60 yard toss. Merriweather added the two-point conversion as the Squadron regained the lead, 16-14.

Once again the Lanett use its ability to run the ball on the Flyboys' defense as the Panthers marched 81 yards in 5:16 to take the lead 20-14.

Highland Home didn't trail the home team for long. Sankey broke away on a 63-yard run on the Squadron's first play from scrimmage on their next drive to take a 22-20 lead. The two-point conversion failed.

The visitors' lead was short lived as the Panthers marched 60 yards for its third score in four possessions on a 28-yard field goal.

At the half, Lanett had a slight advantage over Highland Home, 23-22.

Things seemed to be looking up for the Squadron's defense in the second half of play, as it stopped the Panthers on three consecutive running plays to open up the third quarter. Following only a 14-yard punt, the Flyboys offense setup at the Lanett 39-yard-line.

It only took Highland Home three plays to find pay dirt as Sankey and Merriweather connected for a 29-yard score. Derrick Dulaney hauled in Sankey's pass on the two-point conversion giving the Squadron a 30-23 lead.

The Panthers answered back with a time consuming, 17-play, 64-yard scoring drive that took up almost nine minutes of the clock to cut into Highland Home's lead 30-29.

The Squadron started the four quarter with another score when Sankey hit O.D. Bryant on a 10-yard toss that capped off a 12-play, 68-yard drive. Leading 36-29, the Flyboys had the opportunity to go up by eight points, but a bad snap to Sankey on the two-point conversion attempt spoiled Highland Home's chances.

The Panthers' offensive unit once again controlled the line of scrimmage as they pounded out a 16-play, 66-yard scoring drive that ate up 8:01 of the game clock.

With 55 seconds left in the game and the Panthers trailing by one point, Bailey outran the Squadron's defense to the pylon to score the all-important two-point conversion and go up 37-36.

The Flyboys moved the ball 44 yards in seven plays and with three seconds remaining lined up for the game-winning field goal with the ball resting on the Panthers' 10-yard-line. Senior place kicker Clemmie Nichols', replacing Keith Dawkins who's sidelined with an injury, kick was no good as Lanett clung to a 37-36 victory.

Sankey finished the night 18-of-22 passing for 241 yards and four touchdowns. He also had seven carries for 112 yards.

Merriweather finished with 12 catches for 184 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensively, sophomore linebacker Zac Stillwell led the Squadron with 10 tackles and freshman linebacker Rico Harris chalked up nine tackles.

The Squadron will celebrate homecoming this week as they host the Marbury Bulldogs (4-1, 3-1). The 'Dogs are led by one of the top running backs in the state, senior Undrea Sails, who had 232 yards rushing on 37 carries and four touchdowns last week.

Homecoming pre-game activities are set for 6:30 p.m. at Clay-Jordan Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.