Panthers have one last shot at playoffs

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 25, 2004

The mood in the clubhouse was somber as the Georgiana Panthers changed following the 21-14 loss to Excel Friday night as they thought their dreams of a playoff berth were lost.

What they didn't know was that down in Silas Washington County had just fallen to Southern Choctaw giving the Panthers one last shot at the fourth seed position in next week's game against Washington County.

The winner of next week's game will go to the playoffs.

The Panthers came out strong scoring on the first drive against Excel. Stackhouse made a 17-yard run into the end zone but the PAT failed.

In the middle of the second quarter, Excel had a wild snap as they went to punt which sent the ball rolling down field. Fearful of Georgiana picking the ball up, the punter kicked the ball into the end zone, and actually through the uprights, giving Panthers a safety.

The Panthers received the kickoff following the safety and drove the ball down to the Excel 12-yard line. William Langham went the last five yards in for the touchdown with 3:30 left in the half. The extra point kick just missed going through the upright but the Panthers were up 14-0.

Excel had been unable to move the ball effectively so far, but as the half came to a close they had worked their way to the 30-yard line. With 1:04 left on the clock, fourth down and one, Excel decided to go long and threw a pass to Jimmie Lett on the Georgiana 15-yard line.

Excel's Justin Whatley, who plagued the Panthers all night, ran around the end and dove three yards into the end zone. The conversion was stuffed short but the Panther's lead was down to 14-6.

The Panthers tried to rally in the second half but turnovers proved to be their downfall.

Excel drove to the Georgiana 30-yard line on the opening possession until the Panther defense stopped them and Excel turned the ball over on downs.

On the very next play, Quarterback Joel Maye's pass was intercepted giving Excel another chance.

With 8:08 left in the quarter, Excel's Justin Whatley went 11 yards into the end zone. A two-point conversion later and the score was tied at 14.

The Panthers looked to come back with a drive of their own that made it all the way to the Excel five-yard line. Excel's defense stiffened and Georgiana went for a field goal only to have Excel jump off-sides. With the ball on the Excel three-yard line, York decided to go for it. Douglas Stackhouse was caught, however, behind the line of scrimmage and Excel took over on downs.

The pass proved deadly to the Panthers now as Excel marched down the field and scored on a 25-yard pass to Jimmie Lett. The PAT was good and Excel had taken the lead, 21-14.

Tyrell Rudolph looked to even the score again for the Panthers when, on the kickoff return, he went 75 yards to the Excel 23-yard line. But on the next play, the Panthers lost the ball to a fumble.

Excel drove again, this time to the Georgiana 13-yard line before the Panthers stopped them and took over on downs. But they couldn't move the ball past their 25-yard line and on a fourth and 10, Joel Maye's pass was intercepted in the Excel 44-yard line.

The Panthers caught a break on the next play as it was Excel's turn to fumble the ball.

With 1:00 left on the clock, the Panthers were on the Excel 39-yard line when Maye's pass to the 10-yard line was picked off.

Excel took over with less than a minute to play and just ran the clock out, winning 21-14.

"I'm really at a loss for words," York said. "Going in to a game like that you had to be prepared and we weren't. That's my fault and I'm sorry for it. I take full responsibility for that score."

York said he was real happy with the way the Panthers were able to move the ball but would be working on pass coverage next week.

"We came out hammering on the first drive and that was awesome," he said. "Excel just played like they have nothing to lose. They had no chance at the playoffs."

The Panthers ran up 221 yards on the ground and 15 in the air for 236 total yards.

Douglas Stackhouse had 179 of those yards in 30 carries. William Langham ended the night with 51 yards in 12 carries.

Quarterback Joel Maye completed two of nine passes for 15 yards and three interceptions.

York said the team would come out Monday and just get ready for Washington County as usual.

"There's still some football left to play," he said. "We're not going to quit. We're going to work hard and just get better."