Perhaps it was the fact the North Lamar Panthers were playing at home or maybe its because they had another week under their belts. Either way the defense that stepped on the field Friday night against the Mt. Pleasant Tigers looked completely different than the team that played in Idabel.
In Idabel, the North Lamar defense gave up 478 total yards. The Panthers defense only gave up 244 total yards on Friday night. Perhaps the more telling number, though, is how the defense played during crucial junctures of the game. Last week Idabel was four out of 12 on third down conversions and an incredible four of six on fourth down conversions. Mt. Pleasant only converted one of each Friday night.
The first two drives for Mt. Pleasant both ended with fumbles caused the Panther defense. North Lamar forced three turnovers by the Tiger offense resulting in 13 points.
Mt. Pleasant had three drives on the night in which they didn’t get more than 10 yards. One of the drives ended with negative yardage and they had another one in which they only gave up 11 yards. The only time, Mt. Pleasant moved the ball further than 40 yards on a drive was the last drive of the game in which time ran out.
”I told people we can play defense. We have good defensive coaches. We have good kids. They’ve got heart. Last week does us no justice. It was the first time they’ve been in a game situation…It was a totally different bounce back. We knew we could do it.” - Aaron Emeyabbi
Bounce back may be an understatement as the Tigers only managed one score on offense. The only other touchdown for Mt. Pleasant came on a 45 yard punt return for a touchdown.
The Panthers got the opening kick off and could not do anything with it. North Lamar managed only five yards on three plays. Forced to pun from their own nine yard line, the Tigers capitalized. Tydre’on Wilkerson took the punt at the 45 yard line and was able to score as he scampered down the sideline.
It didn’t take the North Lamar offense long to respond, however. The first play of the next series saw Javon Franklin take a handoff and go 70 yards to the house for a touchdown. Before the quarter would end, North Lamar would take the lead. This time, it was Sam Cowling on a two yard run. A missed extra point and a failed two-point conversion would leave the Panthers up 12-7 after one.
The two teams would battle back and forth until late in the second quarter. It was at that point Cowling went 69 yards for a touchdown on a read option play. The extra point by Chayanne Peralta was good giving the Panthers a 19-7 lead. The Tigers would score their final touchdown before the half to make it 19-14.
The second half belonged to North Lamar as they outscored the visiting Tigers 20-0. The first score came at the 5:23 mark of the third quarter when Tyler Hill scampered two yards for a score. Cowling would find the end zone for the third time in the game as well. His score came late in the fourth quarter. Facing a fourth and goal from the one yard line, Cowling easily got into the end zone to extend the lead to 32-14.
After the defense recovered their third fumble of the game, the Panthers offense took to the field to run out the clock and secure the win. Three plays into the drive, though, and Franklin broke through the line for a 30 yard score with less than a minute to play.
With the win, North Lamar evens their season record at 1-1. The Panthers will be at home next Friday as they welcome Greenville to R.L. Maddox stadium. Kickoff will be at 7:30.