It was a game that had more twists and turns than a Hollywood blockbuster. It was a game that took fans, coaches and players on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. In the end, though, it was Paris High celebrating a 42-35 victory over the hometown North Lamar Panthers.
”Our kids played their butts off. They really did…..I love that they fought hard. The scheme was there.” - Coach Emeyabbi after the game was over.
That may be an understatement on his part too. On multiple occasions, the Panthers had the opportunity to fold up and get blown out of the game. The resiliency of this team came through when they needed it most.
Paris scored the opening touchdown less than a minute into the game. North Lamar tried an onside kick to start the game and it didn’t work. Paris took over at their own 49 yard line. It only took them three plays to find the goal line.
North Lamar answered the bell as they marched 74 yards on their opening drive. It took them 10 plays to do so, while eating up nearly five minutes of game time. The result was a 13 yard run from Sam Cowling to tie the game.
After holding Paris to only three yards on their next possession, North Lamar took the ball 80 yards on their next drive. This time it took 12 plays. Javon Franklin capped it off with a one yard touchdown run.
On their first two drives, Paris didn’t give the ball to the Donovan Williams one time. That changed starting on the third series. Williams started getting the ball steadily and North Lamar had a hard time stopping him.
On the Wildcats next two possessions, Williams scored on a four yard run and a 74 yard run respectively. All of a sudden Paris was up 21-14 late in the second quarter.
North Lamar’s offense meanwhile stalled. After putting together 154 yards on their first two drives, North Lamar managed only 35 yards of offense on their next six touches.
Leading 21-14, Paris had the ball deep in North Lamar territory late in the first half. Ja’Kerion Brown spiked the ball at the Panthers 13 yard line with just under 20 seconds to play in the half.
Trying to go up by two scores, Brown rolled to his left. Trying to find Jalon Pipkins near the goal line, his pass was a little off the mark. The ball went through the hands of Pipkins and right into the hands of Menderiz Gray.
Gray, catching it at the five yard line, took off down the sideline. After breaking a few tackles, Gray found himself standing in the North Lamar endzone with two seconds left in the half.
The Panthers had tied the game. The third quarter was back and forth for both teams as neither team could move the ball. The Wildcats managed 23 yards on their two drives in the third quarter while North Lamar only had 19 on their three drives.
On the next Wildcat drive, the Panther defense held them. Facing a third down and 12, Brown ran the ball for five yards. However, a late hit out of bounds on North Lamar added 15 yards to the end of the run and kept the drive going. Paris would capitalize making the score 28-21.
Another three and out by the Panthers offense gave Paris the ball right back. This time it only took them three plays to go 68 yards, capped off by a 63 yard run from Williams.
The Panthers were now down by 14 with a little over eight minutes to play in the game. North Lamar would go back to work. The Panthers went 72 yards in 14 plays on their next drive. Cowling finished the drive with a one yard scoring run.
North Lamar appeared to have scored a few minutes earlier. Cowling pitched the ball to Austin Allison on an end around. Allison stopped and aired it out to Franklin who caught it in stride at the five and scampered in for a touchdown. However, the Panthers were flagged for an ineligible receiver down field.
Never-the-less, the score was now 35-28. With less than three minutes to play in the game, everyone knew an onside kick was about to happen. Somehow, the ball bounced perfectly between a couple of Wildcats and North Lamar recovered the onside kick.
Twenty-seven seconds later, the game was tied. It was Cowling once again. This time on a 33 yard run. Paris, though, had too much time. Paris got the ball back on their own 42 yard line. It only took them five plays to march 58 yards for the score.
Cowling would have the ball stripped away on the first play of their next drive. That would be how the ballgame ended.
”I’m proud of my team. We’ve gotten better every week and we’re peaking at the right time going into the playoffs.” - Emeyabbi
The Panthers season will continue, though, as they will be in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. North Lamar will play Terrell at Terrell. The game will be Friday at 7:30pm.