Panthers Fall to Troup Tigers on Game’s Final Play, 19-17

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

WESTWOOD – The Westwood Panthers and Troup Tigers engaged in a good old fashioned slobber knocker of a football game on Friday night and fittingly enough, the contest came down to the game’s final play.

With five seconds remaining in the game and the ball on the Westwood 30, Troup was trailing by a score of 17-13. Troup QB Weslee Ross dropped back to throw but was flushed out of the pocket. He rolled to his right and heaved the ball towards the end zone as time expired.

A Westwood defender stepped in front of the ball for an apparent game ending interception. The horn sounded and the Westwood Panther band started to play the school fight song – but…

On the far side of the field, a yellow piece of laundry decorated the field. The Panthers had been called for offsides. Because the game can’t end on a defensive penalty, the ball was moved up five yards and Troup was given new life.

With no time left on the clock, Ross took the snap and drifted towards the Troup sideline. As the Panther rush closed in, Ross saw a Tiger receiver flash open for a brief moment. That was all the time Ross needed and Ross took advantage of it with his best pass of the night.

He threw a dart to WR Colton Whitsell who hauled in the laser strike for a 25 yard game winning touchdown to give the Tigers a 19-17 win.

It was homecoming for the Westwood Panthers and after Michaela Page had been crowned queen and Jose Najera had been named as king, the two teams got down to business.

Troup started the game with possession of the ball and drove into the Westwood red zone before the Panthers defense showed up. When they did, they threw Ramiro Martinez for a one yard loss on first down and no gain on second down. Two straight incompletions from Ross gave the ball to the Panthers at their own 19.

After Jamar Clewis picked up 11 yards on first down, a bad snap forced Westwood to scramble for the recovery at their own 13.

On the very next play, a fumble gave the ball right back to the Tigers at the Westwood four. Martinez took crossed the goal line on first down with a bruising run and the Tigers took an early 6-0 lead with 8:17 remaining in the first period of play.

The two teams slugged it out in the middle of the field for the remainder of the first quarter and well into the second before either one was able to crack the opposing defense.

As the clock crept under the five minute mark of the second quarter, the Panthers offense began to click.

Westwood QB Jesaiah Axum connected Jailyun Tum for 10 yards and then found Zac Morrow for 12 more. Two runs by Clewis picked up 11 yards and was followed by an Axum to Clewis pass for 14 more.

Axum kept the ball on the next play and juked his was down to the 20 for a 16 yard pickup. Clewis picked up seven more via the ground and after Axum hit Michael Page with a seven yard slant, Westwood was inside the Troup 10.

From there, Clewis slipped through a seam for seven yards on first down and then burst up the middle on a one yard dive to tie the score at six with 3:25 remaining in the half. Justin Ramirez knocked home the PAT to give the Panthers a 7-6 lead with time running down in the half.

Neither team could muster any firepower during the final three minutes of the quarter as the two teams went into the locker rooms at halftime with the Panthers clinging to a one point lead.

Following the halftime festivities, the Panthers opened play with possession of the ball. A great kickoff return by Axum gave Westwood outstanding field position to start the third quarter as Axum returned the ball all the way to the Tiger’s 38 yard line.

On first down, Axum connected with Tatum for an 11 yard pick up. Axum kept the ball on the next play and picked up five more. After Axum connected with Bronya Davis, the Panthers had a first down at the Troup five yard line.

Just when it seemed, the Panthers had the Tigers on their heels, the Troup defense stepped up. Clewis was held to one yard on back-to-back carries. When Tatum was held to no gain on third down, Ramirez trotted out to the field to attempt a 24 yard FG and when the ball split the uprights at the 8:15 mark of the second quarter, Westwood led by a score of 10-6.

The score remained that way until the waning moments of the third quarter when Desmond Deason got behind the Westwood defenders and hauled in a 43 yard rainbow from Ross and took the ball to pay dirt.

The TD allowed Troup to reclaim the lead and when Iban Rojo converted the extra point, the Tigers now led 13-10.

Westwood took over possession of the ball after the kickoff at their own 40 as the third quarter came to an end. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Clewis broke free up the middle and scampered for 41 yards down to the Tigers 15 yard line. Axum picked up six on the next play and then Clewis took it to the house from six yards out to recapture the lead. The Ramirez PAT was good and with 11:36 remaining in the game, the Panthers led by a score of 17-13.

The score remained that way until the final play of the game. The two teams exchanged possessions throughout the remainder of the quarter, but when Westwood took over at their own 43 with 2:13 left to play, the game seemed almost over.

The Tigers had wisely saved their time outs and the Troup defense kept the Panther ball carriers in check to force a punt at the 1:45 mark.

The punt was downed at the Troup 10 and gave the Tigers one last chance with 1:37 left to play. Ross hit Jordan Green for 14 yards on first down. Following two straight incompletions, Ross found Green once again for a 10 yard pickup but a holding call pushed the ball back to the 25 with 44 seconds remaining.

The Tigers would not quit and worked the ball across midfield as the clock crept under 30 seconds. After picking up a fourth and five, Ross found Whitsell for 10 yards down to the 30 and set the stage for the dramatic come from behind 19-17 win.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.