For the most part, this season, the North Lamar Panthers have been all about the running game. Against Idabel, they threw the ball eight times, but most of that was due to the fact they were trailing late in the ball game. Mt Pleasant only saw three attempts from Sam Cowling. Against Greenville, it was a different story, though.
The Lions saw six attempts from Cowling in the Panthers 40-20 victory. When you run 46 plays on offense, that doesn’t seem like a lot. And to be honest, it isn’t a lot of attempts. However, it’s not the number that was so intriguing. It was when the pass plays occurred that caught everyone off guard.
Take the first pass play for instance. North Lamar received the opening kick off and got the ball at their own 44 yard line. After a Javon Franklin run, the Panthers had the ball near midfield. On second down and two, the entire stadium knew that one of two things were about to happen. Cowling was going to hand the ball off to Franklin or he was going to keep it on an option play for a run himself.
Someone forgot to tell head coach Aaron Emeyabbi this, though. Emeyabbi and his staff dialed up a pass play that was perfectly executed. Cowling took the snap from center and rolled to his left. He fired down field and Menderiz Gray made a nice over the shoulder catch for a 33 yard gain. Four plays later, Franklin found the endzone for the score.
The next pass came a little later in the first quarter. Panthers, once again near midfield, were facing a second down and 19. More times than not, you will see teams run the ball here hoping to get back some of the yardage needed to make a first down. North Lamar decided to gamble and throw the ball. It wasn’t anything spectacular but it was a completed pass to Josh Daingerfield for a seven yard gain.
The next play, third and 12, was the part where North Lamar pulled out their bag of tricks. Nobody thought they would pass the ball two times in a row. Well nobody except the North Lamar team. And pass is exactly what they did. This time it was to Braylon Perrin for an eight yard gain.
These two plays set up a fourth and four from the Lions 34 yard line. Cowling took the next play to the house on a quarterback option to put the Panthers up 14-0.
The pass came in the second quarter. Facing a second down and 10 from the Lions 33 yard line, Cowling hit Daingerfield for a 12 yard pass and a first down. Although the drive wouldn’t end in points, this was just another example of North Lamar mixing things up against the Lions defense.
The next time Cowling would throw the ball would be in the third quarter. This would be the most spectacular of all the pass plays North Lamar would have on the night. With a 20-13 lead, North Lamar is facing a second and 16 after a fumble on a handoff exchange.
Cowling drops back to pass and is flushed out of the pocket. He starts rolling to the near side and throws the ball down the field as he nears the Panther sideline. Perrin, who is sprinting across the field near the 40 yard line of Greenville dives towards the ball and makes a remarkable catch for a 24 yard gain. Three plays later, and Cowling would be standing in the endzone for another Panther score.
Of course the passing game was a nice compliment to the Panthers already dynamic running game. With the 84 yards passing, the Panthers added another 275 on the ground. Most of those coming from Cowling and Franklin. Franklin finished the game with 151 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns while Cowling went for 119 and three scores.
Both players, once again, had runs broken for touchdowns. Javon broke a 60 yard run while Cowling had a 34 yard scamper of his own.
Not to be overlooked is the defense, either. The Panthers gave up 327 yards to the Lions. The Panthers defense, though, stood tall when it needed to. Twice Greenville faced a fourth down situation in which the North Lamar defense stopped them from converting the first down.
Trailing by 14, Greenville got the ball inside the Red Zone at the 15 yard line. A holding penalty and a sack by Jeremiah Guenther put the ball at the 34 yard line of Greenville. The pass attempt on fourth down was knocked away by the safety Matt Gibbons to end the threat.
Once again, the defense would come up big when it needed to. This time it was late in the fourth quarter. With Greenville trailing 33-20, they had to score and had to score quickly. The problem was the stubborn Panthers’ defense wasn’t allowing this to happen.
”We’re going to be in some dogfights, so that’s how it has to be” - Coach Aaron Emeyabbi on his ‘bend, don’t break’ defense.
The Lions had the ball on their own 40 yard line facing a 2nd and one. Three opportunities to gain one yard and three opportunities failed. The first came when quarterback Fred Whaley threw an incomplete pass. The next came when Nakia Wilson was tackled for no gain. The last happened when Whaley was stopped at the line of scrimmage.
With the win, North Lamar is now 2-1 on the season and will travel to Pottsboro next Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7:30.
”Pottsboro is a much more disciplined football team than the last three we faced…. We have to get more disciplined as a football team.” - Emeyabbi