“I thought it was our worst game of the year.”
Those are the words from head coach Tim Billings after his team lost 49-28 to the visiting Princeton Panthers.
“We’ve had games in which we had bad quarters, but I thought tonight we were bad for all four quarters.”
The score would indicate the coach is right in his sentiments. After all, the hometown team had plenty of opportunities to change the outcome. The North Lamar defense couldn’t stop the Princeton offense all night as Princeton racked up 503 yards of offense. However, the same could be said of the Princeton defense. North Lamar finished with 492 yards of offense.
Time of possession was overwhelmingly in favor of the visiting team. Princeton held the ball for over 33 minutes while the North Lamar offense had it less than 15. Holding the ball for one a third of the game and still managing just under 500 yards of offense, it was some critical mistakes that hurt the Panthers.
North Lamar had two turnovers in the game while Princeton had zero. The first turnover came on the Panthers’ first possession. After Princeton had taken the opening kickoff down the field for a touchdown, North Lamar took over at their own 29 yard line. Eight plays into the drive, after a critical fourth down conversion, quarterback Versache Buchanan scrambled for 15 yards. However, as he was fighting for more yardage, the ball was knocked out of his hands and Princeton recovered.
The second turnover came late in the fourth quarter on the Princeton three yard line. Trailing 49-28, North Lamar moved the ball down the field. Facing a third and two from the 21 yard line of Princeton, Buchanan threw the ball to Julique Franklin. As was making his way toward the goal line, the ball came out and Princeton recovered at the three yard line. Princeton was able to run out the clock and preserve the 21-point victory.
Penalties were another critical element for North Lamar. They only gave up 50 yards due to penalties, but some of them came at critical points in the ball game. There were four of five penalties called for illegal man down field on the offense.
“Most of those were run plays,” Coach Billings explains. “The snap was bad, Versache picked it up and tried to make a play. The lineman was blocking up the field because they thought it was a running play and they were called for the foul.”
Two of the plays in which the snap was bobbled or snapped poorly, North Lamar scored. The first one came in the first quarter. With two and half minutes to play in the quarter, North Lamar had the ball on the 27 yard line after a holding penalty. The snap was high and slipped through Versache’s hands but bounced right back up to him. Buchanan ran around the left side of the line, weaving in and out of blocks until he hit the sideline. From that point on, he put it into overdrive and outran everyone on the field for the touchdown.
The second one came in the fourth quarter. Facing a first and goal at the 10 yard line, the snap was errant and fell to the ground between Buchanan and Javon Franklin. Javon looked down and picked up the ball. He then busted up the middle for the score.
Defensively, though, the Panthers gave up too many yards on the ground. Of the 503 yards given up, 368 of that was on the ground. Princeton quarterback Colt Collins had 131 on the ground while the running back, George Florres, had 176.
“The quarterback is getting too many yards,” the head coach said. “This is the fourth straight week we haven’t stopped the quarterback. It started with Van, then Pittsburg, and then Quinlan Ford last week and then tonight. I understand a good running back getting yards, but we have got to stop the quarterback and we haven’t done that.”
Princeton had the ball nine times and scored on seven of them. They punted once and the other time was at the end of the game when they ran out the clock. On the other side, North Lamar had it eight times. They scored on four of them. The also punted once, but they committed the two fumbles and they had a failed fourth down conversion. Princeton was perfect on their three attempts on fourth down.
The other highlight touchdown for North Lamar came in the second quarter. Trailing 14-7, Buchanan flipped the ball to Javon on a running back screen play. Javon took the ball and ran 78 yards for the North Lamar score. That was the last time the Panthers would be that close again as Princeton would score two more times before the half.
With the loss, the Panthers fall to 1-2 in District play and are in fourth place. Princeton is now tied with Liberty Eylau at 3-0 in the District. North Lamar will host LE next Friday night in the final home game of the season. Kickoff is set for 7:30.