Week 2 of District 7-4A football brought the Liberty-Eylau Leopards to town. LE and North Lamar both came in with 0-1 records, with LE losing to Paris last week while NL fell to Anna. Although the Panthers were missing some key players to injury, expectations from Coach Aaron Emeyabbi and his staff were high coming into this game.
NL would take the opening drive for 39 yards before giving the ball up with their first fumble of the night. The Panthers finished the preseason plus 6 in turnovers but would lose 3 fumbles on Friday night, all of which were on their side of the 50 yard line and resulted in LE touchdowns. The first LE TD came at this point with a 5 play, 44 yard drive that gave LE a 7-0 lead just four minutes into the game.
NL would answer as Jeremiah Guenther busted through the LE defense to score from 3 yards out. Travis Coston added the PAT to tie the score 7-7 with 3:21 left in the first.
The Panthers tried the first of two consecutive onside kicks following the score, and the first proved to be the right call but the Panthers were unable to gain control before the ball went out of bounds. LE would convert its second short drive of the night for a score to take a 14-7 lead. With the turnovers and failed onside kick attempts, LE had a vast advantage in field position throughout the night. The average length of the seven scoring drives for LE was 47 yards. NL's average scoring drive was 70 yards.
Down 21-7 after their second lost fumble, QB Jay Walters would skate around the left side of the line for a 19 yard TD. The Coston PAT was good resulting in a 21-14 LE lead with 5:48 left in the half. The Leopards scored quickly on a 35 yard drive to extend the lead to 28-14. NL would answer with a 74 yard drive, ending with a 37 yard reception by Seybian Holt sealed as he dove for the pylon to score a TD. Holt had a career night with 4 receptions for 101 yards and a TD. The Coston kick was good and NL trailed 28-21 with just 36 seconds left in the half.
Unfortunately that proved to be too much time. On the night, each team only punted once and both teams gained massive yardage (LE had 402 yards on the night while NL had 398). LE scored with a 45 yard TD pass to end the half, though a failed PAT resulted in a 34-21 LE lead at halftime.
With 76 points scored in the other three quarters, the 3rd quarter turned out to be the defensive showcase for the night with the Panthers scoring the only TD. NL mounted a 10 play, 82 yard drive, capping it with a 33 yard TD run by Guenther. Guenther had a phenomenal night replacing Tyler Hill (injury) by running for 222 yards and 2 TDs. The Coston PAT brought NL to within 6, trailing 34-28 going into the 4th quarter.
Early in the 4th, LE would extend the lead to 40-28, failing to convert a 2-pt conversion after scoring a TD. NL would follow with a 12 play, 69 yard drive sealed with a 1 yard TD by Walters. The Coston kick was good leaving NL down by 5, trailing 40-35.
With 5:42 left in the game, the Panthers needed a defensive stop. But LE had other intentions, holding the ball for 4:25 with an 8 play, 63 yard drive (their longest of the night) that ended with NL trailing 48-35. That would be the final on a night filled with promise and frustration for the Panthers.
NL is now 0-2 in district play and will travel to play the Princeton Panthers (2-0) next Friday. Coverage begins at 7:00 on Mix 107.7 and kickoff is at 7:30.