Before the opening kickoff of the game, the guys on the JV White team were asked to leave everything that they had on the field. “It’s the last game of the season, there’s no reason to keep anything in reserve.” Those words were taken to heart by the 21 young men who had made the trip to Atlanta.
The Rabbits took the opening possession of the football and were tested by the Panther defense. The Rabbits were finally able to gain an advantage and after using half of the first quarter, Atlanta punched in the score and converted the 2 point play for an early 8-0 lead. Zach Henry took the ensuing kick return 49 yards to set the Panthers up in good field position. However, the offense was unable to muster anything and turned the ball back over to the Rabbits.
Atlanta wasted no time in scoring on their second drive as they threw a long pass for a TD over the Panther defense. Again, Atlanta converted and increased their lead to 16-0. The Panther offense ignited on their second possession, thanks to the feet of returning signal-caller, Josh Milam. Milam took the ball on the third play of the drive and ran 45 yards around the right end to the Rabbit 5 yard line. After a couple of short yardage plays, Milam punched it end from 1 yard out. He also converted the 2 point play, shaving the lead to 16-8 Atlanta.
Another strong effort by the Rabbit offense put them in the end zone on another pass, moving the lead back to 22-8. Christian Adame recovered a fumble on the conversion attempt to foil it for Atlanta. The Panthers were unable to build on that positive momentum as the ensuing kick return was fumbled by Henry deep in Panther territory. The Panther defense rose to the challenge, with a huge stop of the Rabbit offense by Logan Hutchins, giving the ball back to Spring Hill. Henry made up for the fumble on the kick return by taking a Milam pass in for 89 yards and the score. The conversion attempt failed and the score stood 22-14 in Atlanta’s favor.
The Panther defensive effort continued to build as Malik Cooks somersaulted on his way to making an interception and giving the ball to the offense late in the first half. The Panthers moved the ball, thanks to tough running by Milam, but were unable to score as the horn sounded, signaling the end of the first half.
The Panthers took the second half kickoff, looking to continue the momentum generated prior to halftime. However, the first two plays were a struggle with negative yardage plays. Milam then completed a 28 yard pass to Cooks, who drug defenders with him, reaching midfield. Milam then found Henry down the right sideline for a 24 yard catch. Kaden Rogers, who returned to his normal running back spot after filling in for an injured Milam the previous two weeks, picked up a big 12 yard run down inside the Rabbit 5 yard line. Milam then scored from 4 yards out for his second rushing TD. The conversion attempt failed, and the score read 22-20 Atlanta.
The Panther defense rode the wave of momentum with solid tackles coming from Owen Kuenemann, Rogers, Cooks, and Carson Manasse. Pass defense was led by Milam and Henry as they prevented the Rabbits from throwing successfully. A crucial pass break up occurred on the first play of the fourth quarter, as Henry jumped to contest a pass and the ball fell incomplete.
An 8 yard catch by Henry from Milam, aided by an Atlanta penalty, set up Rogers for a 12 yard run that put the Panthers in the Rabbit red zone. Milam continued his ground assault with a 9 yard run, before throwing his second TD pass to Henry from 4 yards out. Rogers scored the conversion, and Spring Hill took the lead for the first time 28-22. Atlanta was not about to lie down, and scored on a 33 yard pass on the next possession. Milam stopped the conversion attempt, and the score was tied at 28.
The Rabbit kickoff went out of bounds, allowing the Panthers to start at their own 30 yard line. Rogers had a 20 yard run, followed by a 12 yard run from Milam. A pass intended for Cooks was picked off however, and the Rabbits were able to score the go ahead TD after a valiant goalline stand by the Panther defense. The crucial two-point conversion was successful, and the Rabbits had a 36-28 lead with 2 minutes left on the clock.
Zach Henry took the kickoff and ran 53 yards to the Atlanta 25. A pass attempt by Milam drew a Rabbit penalty, moving the ball deeper into Atlanta’s side of the field. Milam ran 5 yards around the right side to the Rabbit 7 yard line. Rogers punched in the Panther score with 5 seconds left on the clock. Unfortunately, the Panthers came up inches short on the attempt to tie. The onside attempt failed and the final score read 36-34.
The JV White team ends their season with a 4-5-1 record (1-4 in district). Their success on the field can not be defined by a win or a loss, and these young men will continue to work to represent Panther Nation well in the future.