Panthers outlast Rebels in Class 2A showdownPublished 5:35pm Tuesday, September 17, 2013
By Justin Lee
LANETT — In east Alabama, small-town Friday night football games are won on the ground.
It’s old-school, hard-nosed, physical football. Shoulder pads pop, defenders pile on running backs, and on each play 22 pairs of cleats churn up the turf, three yards at a time.
It was that kind of a game Friday night in Lanett, as the Panthers defeated Reeltown, 20-14, in a battle between two of Class 2A’s best teams.
“I knew that it was going to be that kind of game,” Lanett head coach Cliff Story said. “They’ve got a good offensive line. They’ve got some very physical, strong backs—and we do, also.”
In the end, it was Story’s Wing-T offense that came out on top over Reeltown’s Wishbone attack. The fifth-ranked Panthers rolled up 263 yards—all of them on the ground—while the Lanett defense held the Rebels to 162 total yards.
Twice the Panthers trailed No. 7 Reeltown. Twice the Panthers rallied to get back into the game.
“I told them it was going to be that kind of a game,” Story said. “There were going to be some ups, and there were going to be some downs, and how we reacted to those things was going to be the outcome of this game. And they fought through it.
“We made some plays when they had to be made, and came out on top.”
After both teams returned from the locker room tied, 7-7, at halftime, Reeltown jumped ahead in the third quarter with a 2-yard touchdown run by Ariko Stewart.
The Panthers answered back on the ensuing drive, going 79 yards in six plays and 2:32, highlighted by a 53-yard run by Jamarious Barrow to the Rebels’ 7-yard line, and a 2-yard touchdown run two plays later by Jalen Washington to help Lanett tie it at 14.
In the fourth quarter, the Lanett defense held Reeltown to a three-and-out inside their own territory, before a Rebels miscue sent a snap flying over the punter’s head, giving Lanett the ball at the Reeltown 4-yard line.
The Panthers cashed in that opportunity two plays later, with a Marlon Bridges 3-yard score.
“I told them, ‘Sometimes, you’re going to be down,’” Story said. “Like when they scored and they went ahead, I just told them, ‘Keep fighting, men. Keep grinding. Good things are going to happen if you just believe and trust each other.’ And they did that.
“It just was a great team effort tonight.”
Barrow led the way with a game-high 141 rushing yards and a second-quarter touchdown for Lanett. Bridges added another 85 yards and a score for the Panthers on the ground.
Reeltown senior Donte’ Harris led the Rebels with 101 yards and a score.
With the win, Lanett moves to 3-0 on the season, and takes control of Class 2A-Region 5 at 2-0 in region play with a win over the defending region champions under its belt.
The Panthers continue region play next Friday, at home against Montgomery Academy.
The Rebels (1-2, 1-1) will have to play from behind in the region standings in the weeks to come, starting next Friday at Randolph County.
“It was a good football game,” Story said. “Reeltown is a very disciplined team, hard-nosed, great coach.
“We just came out tonight, and faced some adversity, and the kids fought through it.”