The Alba-Golden Panthers are a team just three points from being a playoff participant. The Panthers lost to Winona by two points and Grand Saline by just one. They looked in playoff form Friday night using a dominate ground game to overpower Quitman 60-22.
After a slow start the Panthers got in gear taking a 20-0 lead at intermission. It had been a salty defensive battle early with both teams making the pads pop. The Panthers scored first on a bruising 11-yard run by rugged Boedie Baker. Zane Smith added the point after kick and the Panthers led 7-0 at the 4:34 mark of the first stanza which is how the first quarter ended.
The Panthers began to wear down the Bulldog defensive with a continuous barrage of running backs, using multiple ball carriers throughout the game. Quitman drove into Alba-Golden territory on several occasions, but fell victim to penalties and being stopped on downs by the Panthers.
Alba-Golden scored again on an eight-yard run by senior Dylan Arenas followed by another Smith successful extra point kick to make it 14-0 with 5:56 left in the half. The Panthers got the ball back in the final two minutes of the first half and speedster John Michael Chadwick got loose around the left end and raced past Quitman defenders for a 40-yard touchdown sprint to give Alba-Golden a 20-0 lead at the half. Chadwick’s speed caught the Bulldogs off guard on several long runs throughout the contest.
The Panthers put the game away scoring 34 third quarter points taking a 54-8 lead into the final frame. Alba-Golden took a 26-0 lead at the beginning of the third quarter after Smith bowled over from the three-yard line on a quarterback keeper. The Panthers had used runs of 14 and 22 yards by Baker followed by a 27-yard run by Chadwick leading to smith’s touchdown plunge.
The Bulldogs got on the board in the third quarter when hard working running back Elisio Turcios bulled his way into the end zone from eight yards out. Trey Berry ran it in for the two point conversion making it a 36-8 game.
The Panthers returned the kick-off to their own 47 yard line. After Arenas gained two yards, it was Chadwick again ripping off a 40-yard jaunt to the nine yard line. From there, Baker carried several Bulldogs with him on a nine-yard scoring run making it 32-8 with 9:02 still to go in the third period.
The Panthers got on the board again on three yard run by Cole Harle to make it a 40-8 game. Arenas added another score for the night on a 10-yard run putting the Panthers up 48-8 at the 4:07 mark of the quarter. Alba-Golden added another score on a 36 yard run by Austin Hartley with still one minute to go until the final quarter. Zack Ferguson added the Panthers final points.
In the fourth quarter, the Panthers another score while Quitman crossed the goal line twice bringing the final tally to 60-22. Turcois had two touchdowns for Quitman.
The Panther running game had Chadwick leading the way with 189 yards on just 6 carries for 33 yard per carry average. In his final game at Panther Stadium, senior Arenas had 142 yards on nine totes for a 16 yard per carry average and two touchdowns. Baker ended the evening with two scores and 100 yards on seven carries. Hartley added 90 yards on five carries for Alba-Golden and he also had one catch for 24 yards.
Coach Derek Smith was obviously pleased with his team. “I like the way we are playing right now. The kids play real hard and we are really clicking right now. We feel like we are a playoff team, but we are going to finish out of the money,” Smith said. “You have to win the games you are supposed to win. I like the way we are playing as a team and we will go to Frankston and hopefully finish the season on a good note.”
Quitman Head Coach Bryan Oakes still has his team playing for their first district win in four years.“We just can’t let our past define our future. We have one more game to go and we will work hard and prepare diligently for Winona,” Quitman Coach Bryan Oakes said. “It will be Senior Night and we want to go out winners for those who have put so much time and effort into this team.”
Both teams end their season this Friday with the Bulldogs taking on Winona for Senior Night and the Panthers taking on the 1-8 Frankston Indians. If Quitman can pull off the upset over Winona and the Panthers beat Frankston there is still the possibility of a tie, but Winona would advance on the point system used by the district. “We feel like we are good enough to be a playoff team, but you have to win the close ones if you expect to advance and we did not do that,” Smith added.
The standings for District 10 3A DII have Harmony on top at 6-0 (8-1) followed by Troup at 5-1 (7-2), Grand Saline 4-2 (6-2), Winona 3-3 (5-4), Arp 3-3 (3-6), Frankston 1-5 (1-8) and Quitman 0-6 (1-8).