That’s what Sulphur’s Nate Johnson had when he blitzed up the middle Thursday night on a 2nd-and-goal play late in the game for Pauls Valley. The junior almost took the hand off away from Panther quarterback Carter Tate.
Johnson was able to knock the ball free and Sulphur recovered the ball ending the Panthers chance at victory and giving the Bulldogs a 19-14 win.
The Panthers continued to get better as they moved the ball up and down the field but just couldn’t get into the end zone. Last week at Lone Grove, Pauls Valley converted on 4-of-5 fourth down plays. Thursday, PV was 3-of-6 on fourth down but two of those non-conversions were inside the 10-yard-line.
Pauls Valley out gained Sulphur 367 to 334 behind 142 rushing yards from Jace Elkins. This was Elkins second straight week over 100 yards and he finished with 92 in his first outing of the season three weeks ago and has emerged as the Panthers’ feature back.
Tate had his best game passing going 8-of-9 for 116 yards. He didn’t have a touchdown pass but he also didn’t throw a pick. On one play, he scrambled away from pressure and threw a strike 20-yards down field for a first down.
Pauls Valley showed their prowess on the first drive of the game. They marched 67 yards down the field on 8 plays only to be stopped at the 4-yard-line by the Sulphur defense. Four different backs had gains of over 5 yards for PV in the drive including a 27-yard run by Elkins and a 13-yard run by Jake Hamilton.
The Panthers defense stepped up big in the first quarter holding Sulphur to two three-and-outs.
Late in the first quarter, Hamilton gave PV
some breathing room with a 30-yard scamper from the 17 to out near midfield. A 14-yard run by Elkins and then a 23-yard pass from Tate to Hamilton moved PV into the redzone. The first quarter came to an end with the Panthers facing a fourth-and-one form the Sulphur 8.
Tate picked up the first down on the first play of the second quarter and Junior Meave in his only carry of the night went in untouched from 6 yards out for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Sulphur caught a big break on the ensuing kick off as they were flagged with a personal foul on a helmet-to-helmet hit that moved the Bulldogs out to the 36-yard line. That seemed to give Sulphur life as they picked up their first down of the night and continued their march down the field.
Senior quarterback Ryan Rackley was the workhorse for the Bulldogs all night. A 16-yard pick up by Rackley gave Sulphur a first-and-goal at the one. Rackley took it in from their tying the score at 7.
Pauls Valley made a huge defensive stand just before the half holding Sulphur out of the end zone after they had moved the ball in side the Panther 20. That stand kept the score knotted at 7 at the break.
Sulphur got the ball to start the second half of play. Running plays by Johnson and Rackley moved the ball just across the midfield stripe. Sulphur went to the air and Rackley his Ray Trent with a 42-yard pass play that moved the ball inside the Panther 10-yard-line.
Pauls Valley held Sulphur out of the end zone for three plays but on fourth-and-5, Rackley hit tight end Wyatt Jones with a pass in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point kick was blocked by Kevin Mendoza giving Sulphur a 13-7 lead.
The Panthers started their first possession of the second half lining up offsides so they began their drive at their own 17-yard line.
Elkins had a big run on first down going 56 yards off the right side inside the Sulphur 30-yard-line. Another run by Elkins moved the ball inside the 15-yard-line. Treston Williams moved PV inside the 5 with a four-yard run setting up the Panthers with a first-and-goal at the two.
Three plays later, Tate found the end zone as he went behind center Colton Wimberly for the touchdown. Manny Colmenares kick gave the Panthers a 14-13 lead.
Late in the third quarter, the Panthers got a 40-yard pass play from Tate to James Jones that gave PV a first down inside the Sulphur 20. Tate Carrie PV down to the 10 as the third quarter ended.
PV had two plays to go six yards for a first down to start the fourth quarter but the Sulphur defense held stopping PV six inches shy of the first down marker at the five-yard-line.
Sulphur got out of the shadows of their own end zone with a 15-yard run by Rackley. Rackley then hit three passes in a row all to Nick Magruder. One on second-and-11 that the PV coaching staff thought was trapped. Sulphur crossed midfield and on a first down run from the 41,
Rackley found the end zone. Rackley bumbled and stumbled his way up the field and his determination got him to the end zone giving Sulphur the lead back. The Panthers intercepted the conversion try as the Bulldogs took a 19-14 lead.
Pauls Valley got the ball at the 42-yard line on the ensuing kick off after a Braden Jackson return was aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty.
Tate was 5-of-5 in the drive that moved PV into scoring position. He hit four different receivers along the way and Elkins 9-yard run gave PV a first-and-goal at the 7. A short run by Tate on first down set up a second-and-goal from the 6.
On the second down snap, Johnson blitzed in up the middle causing havoc in the Panther backfield. Johnson knocked the ball free and Sulphur recovered the ball at the 8 ending the Panthers potential game winning drive.
Sulphur picked up a couple of first downs and then kneeled down on the final three plays of the game running out the clock for a 19-14 win.
Pauls Valley will make the trek to Atoka next week to face the Wampus Cats. Both teams will enter the game with 0-7 records.
Editor's Note: A Full gallery of pictures from this game can be found for sale at: http://paulsvalleydailydemocrat.smugmug.com/Sports/Panther-Football-Oct-17/32816162_KLWMTP