Cordele Dispatch, Cordele, GA

Local Sports

November 10, 2012

Fumbled punt, defensive stand key Cougars' win over Panthers

Americus — Famed retired Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith once remarked during his post-NFL days as a television commentator, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.”

That idiom likely represented the mood Crisp County High players and coaches were in following their 14-7 upset win Friday night over the Americus-Sumter Panthers in a game that ended the season for both schools.

“If” the Cougars had beaten Worth County in an Oct. 19 game their coaches felt they should have won, they would be going to the opening round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.

“But” since they came out of that contest a10-6 loser to the Rams, they’ll be watching from the sidelines when Worth begins post-season play this coming Friday as the No. 4 seed from Region 1-AAAA.

“Had we beaten Worth, we’d be in the playoffs as a participant not as a spectator,” Crisp head coach Lee Campbell lamented while standing on the field at Alton Shell Stadium. “That’s what happens, though, when you don’t take care of business when you have the chance to do so.

“Still, it was great to finish the season with back-to-back wins (both for the season and for only the second time ever in a series the Panthers now lead 28-15).

“I thought we gave super effort throughout. It was a great way to wind things up for our seniors as they go out and for our younger guys when they start off-season preparations for next year.”

After an exchange of punts to open the game, Crisp got a huge break when in sacking the Americus-Sumter quarter it caused and recovered a fumble at the Panthers’ 39.

From there, it overcame an illegal procedure penalty when quarterback Witt Campbell, whose passing has come on strong over the last few games, found Keven Mygrant for 13 yards and Landon Whitman for 12 and a first down at the 19.

A delay of game infraction and an 8-yard loss shoved Crisp back out to the 32 before Campbell hit A.J. Mobley with a 10-yard pass and kept for a 2-yard gain.

Thus facing 4th-and-11 from the 20 to open the second period, he hooked up with Monquailes Bembrey for 19 yards and another first down at the 1. Mygrant immediately barged into the end zone from there. A missed extra point kick kept the score at 6-0.

The Panthers, who would be going to the playoffs themselves had they won, responded with a go-ahead drive of their own. Starting from their own 35 when Crisp’s kickoff went out of bounds, they went 65 yards in nine snaps.

Aided immensely by an encroachment call on 4th-and-4 from the Crisp  40, the home team scored five plays later on Jonathan Thomas’ 14-yard untouched scamper off right tackle. Dylan Morgan’s PAT kick put the hosts on top 7-6 6:39 before halftime.

With time winding down in the half, the Cougars weathered a second Panthers’ scoring threat when an intended receiver dropped a pass in the end zone to end a drive that had started when Crisp fumbled the ball away at its own 41.

The visitors then put themselves in hot water again when on their first play of the second half they coughed up the football this time at their 46. The Cougar defenders met that challenge by limiting their host to seven yards on four rushes.

Unable to advance the ball past the A-SHS 45, Crisp was forced to punt and when it did so the Panthers return man fumbled upon being hit. Elijah Johnson became “Johnny on the spot” when he scooped up the loose ball at the 10 and stepped into the end zone for the TD. A foiled two-point conversion run kept Crisp’s lead at 12-7.

Following an exchange of punts, the Cougars drove as deep as the Panthers’ 19 where a fourth down pass play left them a yard shy of moving the chains with 6:42 left to play.

The Panthers picked up two first downs and seemed almost certain to get another when they needed less than a yard from their guests’ 45 to keep alive a potential game-winning drive.

At that point, Crisp defenders came up with what their coach labeled, “Oh, man, a huge, huge play” as they dropped Jonathan Thomas for a yard loss as their fans and coaching staff let loose with a roar of approval.

With 3:56 now showing on the clock, the Cougars killed all but the last four seconds by getting off seven plays. The Panthers’ final snap of the night ended with Benton getting sacked in the end zone for a safety.

“We had some blown stuff here and there but their dropped punt and the fourth down stop made by our defense on their last drive definitely turned out to be the key plays of the game,” the Crisp mentor said.

In completing 14 of 21 attempts for 135 yards, Witt Campbell pushed his passing numbers over the last five games of the season to 70 completions in 111 attempts for 531 yards.

Seven different receivers had catches in the finale, with Mobley’s five grabs for 34 yards leading the way.

Americus-Sumter, which finishes 4-6, 2-5 got a 16-carry, 100-yard rushing effort from Wesley Fields.

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