ASHS drops season opener in Battle of the Panthers
By MICHAEL MURRAY
AMERICUS – The Americus-Sumter High School (ASHS) Panthers took the gridiron at Finklea-Robinson field in Americus on August 21 to battle a familiar foe, the Smiths Station Panthers, for the Americus squad’s season opener. With Smiths Station usually competing in Class 7A, and having dealt a tough defeat to the ASHS Panthers in last year’s season opener, the local squad entered the game sure that they had their work cut out for them. They soon found out that they were correct as the visiting team racked up a 41-13 win at the game’s conclusion.
Smiths Station came out fighting and did not slow down until the final buzzer sounded as they overpowered the Class AAAA Americus-Sumter team.
The ASHS Panthers received first possession, and were held to two sets of downs by the Alabama Panthers’ defense.
On Smiths Station’s first possession, with the team looking at second down and 19 to go after a holding penalty, quarterback Dalton Sinquefield hurled a long bomb into the arms of wide receiver Will Clanton before he was forced out of bounds by ASHS’ Darion Tyson at the Georgia Panthers’ 21. Sinquefield then ran a keeper into the end zone, putting the game’s first points on the board. A successful PAT by Harrison Jones put Smiths Station up 7-0.
On the Americus-Sumter returning drive, from their own 25, Yancie threw a long pass that found its mark with Anthony Payne, who took off for the 50 before being stopped. Another handoff to Kobe Lewis netted ASHS nine more yards, leaving the ball at the Smiths Station 41. Yancie followed with a rush that landed the team at the 29, but a series of penalties set the team back and, soon they were looking at fourth and 14 from the 37.
The ASHS Panthers went for it, but the pass sailed long and Smiths Station took over on downs.
The Alabama Panthers slowly made their way down the field, gaining a pair off first downs, first on a long reception by Stevie Pringle, then on another by Austin Taylor.
Sinquefield ran a keeper, landing the ball at the ASHS 13 before his next pass found Taylor in the end zone. Jones’ PAT attempt bounced off the upright, leaving Smiths Station ahead 13-0 until the buzzer sounded.
Smiths Station then held ASHS to one set of downs, forcing a punt from Americus 23. The punt was tipped by a defender, giving Smiths Station possession at the ASHS 36.
Smiths Station quickly gained a first down with a handoff to Khalilah Johnson. A fumble on the next play was jumped on by Kelcey Allen, leaving the ball at the 23.
From there, the Georgia Panthers’ defense didn’t give up any ground, forcing Smiths Station to attempt a Field goal from the 29 yard-line. The attempt fell short.
ASHS received the ball at the 29 yard line. After a pair of pass attempts fell short, a handoff to Lewis allowed him to barell through the gut and make his way to the 44. From there, ASHS continued to inch ahead before a short completion to Braylen Willliams gained the team a first down at the Smiths Station 45. The Smiths Station defense held on tight, stubbornly refusing to give up any ground, however, and on fourth and ten, ASHS was forced to punt.
The punt was dropped by Smiths Station safety, Antoine Smith. Seeing the opportunity, ASHS defensive back, Demetrious Woods jumped on the ball to the cheers of the home crowd.
The ASHS offense inched their way closer to the goal from the 15. On third and seven, Yancey made his way through the Smiths Station defensive line to the four for first and goal. The Alabama Panthers’ defense put up a hard-nosed goalline stand, forcing the ASHS squad to settle for a field goal. Americus-Sumter place kicker, Tony Vargas deftly split the uprights, giving the Georgia Panthers their first points of the game.
With 2:30 left in the half, Smiths Station began a hard and fast drive down the field. Sinquefield ran a keeper before completing passes to Taylor and Alizedrian Meniefeld. Another short pass found Antwon Burns in the end zone, widening Smith Station’s lead to 20-3 as the first half ended.
Smiths Station received the kickoff, and, in the first play of the half, a long pass to Will Clanton netted the team a 25 yard gain. From their opponents’ 49, Sinquefield ran a pair of keepers up the middle, totaling a 46-yard gain. A handoff to KJ Johnson from the ASHS four yard-line allowed him to break the plane. The extra point was good, widening the gap to 27-3.
Smiths Station held the Georgia Panthers to one set of downs on the return drive, forcing a punt that was, once again, tipped. With the ball at the ASHS 26, Sinquefield found Tyson Toliver open. Toliver then sped into the end zone, further expanding the team’s lead. Another successful PAT from Jones brought the score to 34-4.
ASHS struck back quickly, running a complex reverse that allowed Darion Tyson a 25-yard reception. Another catch by Daveon Johnson brought the Georgia Panthers within Smith Station’s ten, but strong opposition by the Alabama Pathers prevented them from gaining further ground. On fourth and six, from the eight, ASHS brought in Tyler Clark to attempt to create an opening for Yancie’s keeper, but the Alabama squad managed to repel the attack and took possession on downs at the four.
The teams battled for territory over the next two drives before ASHS got within field goal striking range at the Smiths Station 14. Vargas’ kick was successful, narrowing the Panthers’ deficit to 34-6.
The Alabama Panthers struck again at the 10:30 mark in the final quarter with a reception by Bailey Densel that netted the team 33 yards. Sinquefield then ran a keeper into the end zone from the ASHS 20 to bring the score up to 41-6.
Americus-Sumter finally answered with one minute of play left in the game. After forcing a punt from their visiting opponents, a pair of rushes by Eric Brown netted the team nearly 60 yards. From the Smiths Station 9, Brown then made a dash down the left side to score the ASHS Panthers’ first touchdown of the game. Smiths Station then ran down the clock for the remaining minute to take the 41-13 victory at the final buzzer.
ASHS heads to Montezuma on August 28 to face off against the Macon County Bulldogs. the Panthers defeated the Bulldogs 28-23 last season.
The team will return to Americus on Sept. 4 to continue non-region play, hosting the Shaw Raiders.