Wildcats steamroll Panthers
The Florala Wildcats were pumping on all cylinders Friday when they stomped the J.F. Shields Panthers 58-18 on senior night at Matthews Stadium.
Shields took an early lead after the Panthers returned the opening kickoff 65 yards for a touchdown. The Panthers were unsuccessful on the two-point attempt, but held a 6-0 lead with 11:45 left in the first quarter.
Florala’s offense answered right back with a quick scoring drive. Senior quarterback Avery McNeill picked up 35 yards on the first play of the drive followed by a 30-yard run from Elijah Patrick. McNeill then went 15 yards on the third play for a Wildcats’ touchdown. After a couple of penalties, the Wildcats converted a two-point conversion to take an 8-6 lead with 10:15 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats’ defense went to work on the next drive and forced a punt after three plays. Florala got to the punter and Ellis McDaniel recovered the ball on the Panthers’ 3-yard line for the Wildcats.
Patrick needed just one play to punch the ball in from 3-yards out and following the extra point from Hunter Truman the Wildcats were up 15-6.
Florala’s defense stifled the Panthers’ offense on the following drive and forced another three-and-out.
One play later, McNeill scampered 37-yards to the end zone on a quarterback keeper with 3:55 left in the first quarter. Truman’s extra point gave the Wildcats a 22-6 lead.
Once again the swarming Wildcats’ defense held the Panthers to a three-and-out.
McNeill worked his magic once again on the punt return, weaving in and out of traffic on his way to a 65-yard touchdown. Truman’s extra point put the Wildcats up 28-6 with 26 seconds left in the first quarter.
After forcing a third straight three-and-out, the Wildcats took over on the Panthers’ 18-yard line.
Xavier Serrano pounded his way for 17 yards on the first play and then hammered the ball in from 1-yard out on the next play. Truman’s extra point gave the Wildcats a 35-6 lead with 10:05 left in the second quarter.
The Wildcats’ defense continued to flex its dominance over the Panthers and added two more points to the Florala lead with a safety.
Two plays after the free kick, Leroy Mitchell rambled in the end zone for a 24-yard score. Truman’s extra point gave Florala a 44-6 lead with 6:20 before halftime.
After the Wildcats removed most of the starting players, the Panthers found the end zone on a 26-yard run. The two-point conversion attempt was no good and the Wildcats held a 44-12 lead with 2:00 minutes left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Mitchell bounced around the corner and then raced 75 yards to end zone and after Truman’s extra point the Wildcats were on top 51-12 going into halftime.
With the lead well in hand, coaches from both teams decided to cut the remaining two quarters from 12 minutes to six minutes each.
The Panthers found the end zone on their first drive on the third quarter on a 75-yard scamper around the left end.
The Wildcats responded quickly and put the ball in the end zone after just a few plays. Mitchell took the first play 42 yards and Jacob Hammac capped off the drive with a 24-yard touchdown run. Truman’s extra point gave the Wildcats a final score of 58-18.
“Any time you can win you last game that is special, and no one can ever take that away from these seniors,” Wildcats’ head coach Brad Rhodes said. “I was proud of the way the guys came out and played tonight. I’m very proud and happy for these seniors. They have endured and persevered through a lot and have been great leaders.”
Wildcat senior quarterback McNeill rushed for over 100 yards and eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark for the season.