Alba-Golden runs away from Hawks

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The Alba-Golden Panthers steamrolled the Hawkins Hawks 45-24 in the initial contest of the 2019 football campaign Aug. 30 at Lowrance Field. The Panthers racked up 329 yards rushing and dominated the line of scrimmage all night.

Things did not portend well for Hawkins from the start as the stars and stripes were missing from the venue and the flagpole stood empty throughout the game.

The Hawks covered the Panthers’ opening on-side kick and began the initial series in excellent field position. After a quick three-and-out, Hawkins punted, and Alba-Golden took over on their own 28 yard line.

The Panther defense dominated the Hawks on the night, allowing just 26 total yards in the first half and only 111 yards for the game. The defensive squad remained aggressive throughout and dominated the point of attack. Seldom did only a single Panther make a tackle, as gang-tackling featured.

In their initial series, the Panthers began the steady dose of hard-nosed running. Fans will become well-accustomed to the regimen: power off-tackle with Body Baker, misdirection with Jon-Michael Chadwick, and a quick opener or draw with Austin Hartley. The initial series stalled at the 45. After a Hawkins off sides penalty, the Panthers converted a manageable 4th down.

Quarterback Blake Weissert hit wide out Matt Rogers for a 35-yard completion over the top. This set up Baker who scored on a 5-yard rumble. Alba-Golden went up 6-0 within the first four minutes of play.

Neither team could generate offense on the next two possessions.

The Hawks had an excellent chance to tie the game and change the whole state of play. On a third down from midfield, Hawks quarterback Zach Conde launched a deep pass down the middle which hit the receiver, who was desperately trying to locate the ball, in the back. It fell incomplete but could have fundamentally changed the game.

Hawkins punted and downed the ball at the Panthers’ one yard line. Alba-Golden buckled up and began a 16-play, 99-yard drive resulting in a beautiful scoring strike from Weissert to Chris Chabuad on a well-timed corner route. With 9:30 to play in the half, the Panthers took a 13-0 lead.

The ensuing series was the Panthers’ best defensive series of the game. Tim Mitchell made an excellent stop on first down on an off-tackle run. Although Hawkins completed an out route and gained a first down on the next play, the attacking nature of the line and linebackers was relentless. Mitchell stuffed another inside run on second down, and Baker made the biggest defensive play of the half by sacking the quarterback for a big loss in a classic form tackle. Hawkins punted.

The Panthers run game ground out yardage in big chunks. After three successive first downs and with the ball at the Hawks’ 34 yard line, the Panthers went for a big play. Quarterback Weissert made the first of two mistakes on the night, putting a long ball up on a post route into double coverage. Hawkins intercepted the ball and took over inside their own five yard line.

After a hard run by Hawkins senior halfback Jordan McGowan for a new set of downs, successive plays by Baker and Michael Gaskill stopped the Hawks. Another punt ensued.

From the Hawkins’ 40, Hartley broke free on a nice draw through the left side for a 14-yard gain. Weissert then found Baker wide open in the flat and Baker cruised into the end zone for a score. After a successful conversion by Chabuad, the Panthers led 20-0.

The Panthers were not yet done. A fumbled Hawks exchange was covered by the Panthers and they took over in Hawkins territory with 31 seconds to play. After a deep incompletion, Chadwick took the ball around left end on a 24-yard scamper down to the 6 yard line. With :08 on the clock, Weissert lofted a gorgeous flag route to Mitchell who made the catch in the end zone. Alba-Golden led 26-0 at the half.

Alba-Golden stumbled coming out for the second half. After having moved the ball into Hawkins territory on the initial drive, Weissert found himself under immense backside pressure deep in the pocket and attempted to throw the ball short. Hawkins’ John Hester intercepted and returned it 76 yards for a score.

The turn of events seemed to affect the Panthers. Two penalties and a big loss on a fumbled ball marred the next possession. After fighting back to mid-field, Alba-Golden turned the ball over on downs.

Hawkins returned the momentum to the visitors. After being stopped shy of a first down, the Hawks fumbled the punt snap and the Panthers took over on the Hawk’s 18 yard line. Chadwick scooted around left end to make the score 32-8.

Alba-Golden forced Hawkins to turn the ball over on downs in their next possession, and took over at mid-field. Just seconds into the 4th quarter, Chadwick took a handoff off left tackle, cut back across the pursuit and scored on an amazing 40-yard run.

The game was comfortably out of reach at 38-8. Hawkins scored twice in the closing stages: once on a flea-flicker and again following an Alba-Golden fumble deep in their own territory. The Panthers also scored again on a 38-yard run around right end by Baker.

For Coach Webster and the Panthers it was an excellent start. The line play was solid, timing correct and errors few. Defensively, it was a masterful effort. No doubt, the coaching staff will be busy correcting those big mistakes which could cost district games in October.

The Panthers travel to Big Sandy Friday to take on a Wildcat team who is smarting from a big 70-7 loss to St. Augustine.

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