By Will Johnson
TROUP – The Westwood Panthers were hurting as they entered Friday night’s game against the Troup Tigers. Early season injuries were starting to mount up for Westwood and the Panthers were forced to use their third string QB to start the game.
Troup was coming off of a loss against the Elkhart Elks and was in no mood for excuses, especially after they lost a game they could have won. While the Tigers certainly tried to give their visitors a win, the Panthers were unable to take advantage of a late Troup turnover and fell by a score of 19-14.
The game was a defensive battle through the first 12 minutes of action, and as the first quarter came to an end, the score was knotted at 0-0.
As the second quarter got underway, Westwood made a switch at the QB position and brought in regular starter Darius Turner. The move seemed to spark the Panthers’ offense as Westwood was able to drive down the field and into the Troup red zone.
The Panthers kept it on the ground and used the wheels of J.D. Clewis, Jesiah Axum and Red Horse Warren to keep the drive going, but once they hit the 20, the Tigers’ “D” stiffened and forced a turnover on downs.
Once Troup gained possession of the rock, it didn’t take them long to score. Two plays after they got the ball, the Tigers’ Josh Parker found a crease in the Panther defense and took it 82 yards to the end zone for the game’s first score.
After Westwood took possession following the kickoff, disaster struck. A fumbled exchange in the backfield allowed the Tigers to recover deep in Westwood territory and three plays later, Parker plowed across the goal line for the second time in the quarter, pushed the Troup lead out to 12-0 and brought the first half scoring to a close.
When the two teams emerged from the locker rooms after the break, the Panthers seemed to be rejuvenated. They seized the momentum and managed to quickly cut into the Troup lead, s stayed with their ground game and turned to Warren. The senior did all the work on the Westwood possession as he was able to get near the midfield stripe on his first third quarter carry. On his second carry, he went the distance for a 50 yard TD run. Justin Ramirez knocked the extra point home and with nearly an entire half to play, the Panthers had cut the lead to five, 12-7.
Westwood kept up the defensive pressure on Troup’s ensuing possession and forced a turnover. Troup’s defense was able to re-group, however, and stonewalled the Panthers at the Troup 30 yard line.
The momentum seemed to shift back towards the home side of the field after the Tigers’ defensive stand as Troup was able to mount a drive which ended with a one yard plunge from Trent Allen. The PAT was good and as time was starting to slip away, the Tigers now led 19-7.
With the game hanging in the balance, Westwood Coach Kevin Hays reached in to his bag of tricks. The Panthers have been a running team all year and have only attempted a handful of passes.
After Westwood had moved into Troup territory, Coach Hays called for a pass and it caught the Tigers completely off guard. Turner was able to connect with Bryson West on a 36 yard scoring strike and after the extra point, the Panthers only trailed 19-14.
Following the kickoff, Troup very nearly squandered the game. With the Tigers starting inside their own 15, a mishandled snap allowed Westwood to pounce on the ball inside the Troup 10 yard line and set up shop with under six minutes left to play in the contest.
It was not meant to be for the Panthers, however. A loss of 25 pushed Westwood back to the 35 yard line and Troup was able to force a turnover on downs. Following the possession change, the Tigers were able to run out the clock and held on for the 19-14 win.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.