The Hubbertville Lions football team knew that the task at hand was going to be a tough battle prior to boarding the team bus for the trip to Ray Stadium on the campus of Hackleburg High School for the second round play-off match-up against the Panthers on Friday night.
Coach Lamar Harris had been very vocal in addressing his concerns to each of his players about the needed approach for the game and he wasn't reserved in expressing his points, stating that he was very confident that the fight for the victory would probably come down to the closing minutes of the game. The Lions won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kick with Ethan Nichols lining up deep to receive the ball.
Noah Barnett's kick was received at the 31-yard line by Tanner Upton who fought up field to the Lions 45-yard line where he was met for the stop. Dax Benton wasted little time in taking the ball across mid-field on first down at the Panthers 42-yard line. With the snap of the ball the Lions were penalized for movement moving the ball back to the 47-yard line. On the replay of down, Lathan Holliday got the call to carry the ball but he was met immediately for the stop after a one yard gain leaving the Lions facing second down and fourteen yards. Nichols connected on a short pass in the backfield with Benton but Steven Harper, Courtry Stidham and a host of defenders were right on the spot for the stop. Facing third down, Benton took the direct snap advancing over the line for six yards but Stidham made the solo stop leaving the Lions opening drive short of the needed yardage. Holliday lined up and punted the ball away with Evan Crowe back to receive for the Panthers but Crowe elected to let the ball roll dead at the 23-yard line.
Back to back rushing attacks were beneficial for the Panthers with Harper and his offensive front moving the ball to the 48-yard line. With a new set of downs, Crowe got the call to continue the rushing attack fighting his way over left guard for a seven yard gain with Holliday making the solo stop for the Lions. Facing second down and three yards at the Lions 44-yard line, Stone Fincher was met in the backfield for a loss but the Panthers were penalized on the play. Following the penalty the Panthers were facing second down and ten yards at their own 45-yard line. Fincher got the call to continue the rushing attack but he was met by a host of Lions at the line of scrimmage for a one yard loss. Third down brought additional misery for the Panthers as they were penalized once again moving the back just near the 40-yard line. The situation didn't get any better for the Panthers as on the replay of down, Tre Tranum burst across the line of scrimmage and sacked Kaleb Moore for an additional loss of yardage forcing Harper to line-up and punt the ball away.
Trey Snow made the reception for the Lions and fought his way up to the 35-yard line where Crowe and Austin Pierson made the stop. The Lions loss yardage on first down by way of a false start penalty and on the replay of down the Lions were moved back an additional five yards for another false start. Facing first down and twenty yards, Holliday took the hand-off up the middle but was met immediately by a host of defenders leaving the Lions facing second down and 18-yards. Benton took the direct snap and fought his way around the right end following blockers for a first down at the 41-yard line before being brought down by Stidham and Fincher. With the snap of the ball the Lions continued the rushing attack with Snow taking the ball and rambling across mid-field to the Panthers 44-yard line before Stidham and others could bring him down. Keeping the drive alive and moving into Panthers territory, Benton took the ball up the middle for a nine yard gain before being stopped. Second down brought Holliday over right guard for the first down with Moore and Cade Tidwell making the stop at the 31-yard line. First down brought Snow with the carry around the left side of the line of scrimmage where he was met immediately for the take-down by Stidham and Fincher leaving the Lions facing second down and ten yards. With the snap of the ball, Benton scrambled his way around the left end dodging would be tacklers and picking up seven yards before Stiham, Fincher and Harper could bring him down. Facing third down and three yards, Benton got the call to continue the fight for needed yardage and he took the hand-off up the middle for the first down at the Panthers 21-yard line with John Gainey and Austin Hill making the tackle. On first down Upton took the hand-off out of the backfield around left end with Andrew Adcock making the solo stop leaving the Lions facing second down and seven yards inside the Panthers red zone at the 18-yard line as the first quarter of play came to a close.
Sticking with Upton on the rushing attack the Lions found themselves facing third down and six yards at the 16-yard line. With the snap of the ball Benton took the hand-off but he was met immediately by Purser, Hill, Adcock and others after a one yard gain leaving the Lions facing fourth down. Facing fourth down, the Lions coaching staff elected to fight for the needed yardage and Benton got the call to continue the rushing attack but he was met just shy of the first down marker for the stop by Harper, Moore and others turning the ball over to the Panthers deep in their own territory near the 11-yard line.
First down brought Harper out of the backfield on the rushing attack moving the ball up field to the 37-yard line with Upton and Snow making the stop. Continuing the rushing attack, Crowe was met in the backfield for a two yard loss with Holliday making the solo tackle for the Lions. Following a time-out by the Lions, Harper called his own number and gained the two lost yards back with Tatt Huffman bringing him down at the 35-yard line. Facing third down and ten yards, the Panthers went to the passing attack but Snow remained in position knocking the ball from the reach of Harper leaving the Panthers facing fourth down from their own 37-yard line. Harper lined up and punted the ball away with Snow allowing for the ball to come to a rolling stop at the 26-yard line.
First down brought Nichols calling his own number and rushing over the line for a five yard gain prior to being stopped by a host of defenders. Benton took the ball over right guard on second down rushing across mid-field and fighting for additional yardage but the ball was popped loose by the Panthers on the take down. Lucky for the Lions Zach Hubbert pounced on the loose ball and made the saving recovery at the Panthers 40-yard line. First down brought Holliday up the middle for a three yard gain with Fincher and others on the tackle. Sticking with Holliday on the rushing attack, the Lions moved the ball deeper on second down but penalty flags against the Lions for an illegal procedure moved the ball back to the 42-yard line setting up second down. Benton took the hand-off around the right side of the line of scrimmage fighting for six yards with Fincher and Purser making the stop for the Panthers. With the snap of the ball, Benton once again took the hand-off moving around the right side of the line advancing to the 26-yard line for the first down with Dustyn Fuller making the saving tackle. Tidwell and Stidham made the stop on Upton after a five yard gain on first down and on second down Holliday stood straight up and fought his way to the 16-yard line keeping the drive alive. With a first down at the 16-yard line the Lions found themselves in the Panthers red zone for their second opportunity of the game. With the snap of the ball Benton fought over the right side of the line of scrimmage where he was met for the stop by Fincher, Crowe, Adcock and others leaving the Lions facing second down at the 13-yard line. The Lions gained and additional five yards following a penalty against the Panthers and with the snap of the ball on the replay of down, Holliday fought straight up the middle with Purser, Levi Raffel, John Gainey, Adcock and others on the stop near the 3-yard line. Facing first down and goal, the Lions were determined to find the end zone and with the snap of the ball Nichols called his own number and pushed his way into the end zone for the first score of the evening with 2:25 remaining in the first half of play. The PAT kick by Benton, with Nichols holding and Tranum on the snap was good giving the Lions a 7 - 0 advantage.
Benton's ensuing kick was fielded at the 31-yard line by Pierson who was met at the 34-yard line by Brady Tucker for the take-down. First down brought the passing attack in an attempt to connect deep down field with Fincher but Nichols was on coverage for the Lions. Moore rambled around right end on second down but Huffman, Benton and Snow made the stop after a three yard gain. Following a time-out by the Panthers, Harper called his own number but was met for the stop immediately by Holliday leaving the Panthers facing fourth down and eight yards at their own 36-yard line. Harper lined up in the backfield and punted the ball away with Snow and Benton back to receive for the Lions. Snow signaled for the fair catch making the reception at the Lions 35-yard line.
Benton took the direct snap on first down and raced around left end for an eleven yard gain with Fincher and Sawyer Lynch on the stop. Benton took the ball on first down and attempted to connect through the air on a passing attack with Ryan Brubaker. Penalty flags moved the ball to the Panthers 39-yard line and with the snap of the ball Nichols continued the passing attack connecting with Brubaker along the left side line but officials ruled the catch was made out of bounds. Second down brought Nichols continuing the air attack in an attempt to connect with Snow over the middle but the ball fell incomplete. Following the play the Lions were moved back across mid-field to their own 46-yard line for a holding infraction and with the snap of the ball, Nichols took a knee allowing for time to expire on the first half and sending the teams to the locker rooms with the Lions holding a slight lead 7 - 0.
Opening the second half of play the Lions were penalized on the opening kick forcing Benton to re-kick from the 35-yard line. The ball was fielded at the mid-field line by Barnett setting Harper and the Panthers offensive front up with excellent field position to open the second half of play. First down brought Harper around the left end where he was forced out of bounds by Huffman at the 43-yard line. Harper called his own number again on second down and continued the rushing attack bringing the ball around the left end with Nichols making the stop along the left side line at the 24-yard line. With the snap of the ball, Harper took the ball around the left end once again inching his way closer to the Lions red zone with Benton and Cannon Alexander on the stop following a two yard gain. Second down brought more of Harper and the rushing attack but he attempted to move the ball around the right end where he was met by Z. Hubbert resulting in a one yard loss leaving the Panthers facing third down and nine yards at the Lions 23-yard line. Determined to find the end zone, Harper reverted to the passing attack and connected with Fuller who fought his way across the goal line for the touchdown with 10:15 remaining in the opening quarter of the second half. The PAT kick by Tyson Raper was good bring the score to a tie.
Nichols lined up near the 10-yard line to receive the ensuing kick from Barnett making the reception at the 18-yard line and advancing across mid-field deep into Panthers terrority with Fincher making the saving stop deep down field in the Panthers territory. Officials moved the ball back to the Lions own 29-yard line as the result of a penalty on the kick-off return against the Lions for holding.
Upton took the hand-off on first down over the left side of the line gaining five yards with Stidham and Moore making the stop. Benton got the call to continue the rushing attack on second down but was met after a one yard gain for the tackle by Kobe Webb, Moore, Stidham and others. Third down brought Benton with the ball out of the backfield advancing straight up the middle behind his blockers for the first down at the 42-yard line. On first down, Upton got the call to continue the ground attack but he fumbled the ball on the carry but Nichols scooped the ball off the grass advancing around the right side line where he was brought down for the stop at the Panthers 29-yard line by Lynch, Moore and a host of other defenders. With the snap of the ball, Benton fought his way into the end zone for the score with 7:18 remaining in the third quarter. Lining up for the kick on the PAT the Panthers were penalized moving the ball closer for the Lions. Following the penalty the Lions elected to attempt the two-point conversion and Benton raced into the end zone untouched for the points leaving the score 15 - 7.
The Panthers began their next offensive drive at their own 42-yard line with Harper taking the snap around the left side of the line of scrimmage where Huffman and Alexander made the stop after a seven yard gain. Sticking with Harper and the rushing attack on second down the Panthers moved the ball across mid-field to the Lions 40-yard line where Snow, Upton and a host of defenders made the stop. The Lions were penalized on the stop for a personal foul moving the ball deeper to the 25-yard line. With a new first down deep in the Lions territory, Harper continued the rushing attack taking the over the line where Tranum made the stop for the Lions and once again the Lions found themselves being penalized for a personal foul moving the ball deep inside their red zone to the 10-yard line. Harper was determined to score and with the snap of the ball he did just that taking the ball across the goal line for the touchdown with 5:43remaining in the third quarter. Sticking with Harper and the rushing attack proved successful on the two-point conversion attempt as Harper found the end zone by fighting his way over the left side of the line for the points bringing the score back to a tie.
Benton fielded the ensuing kick from Barnett at the 28-yard line and fought his way from would be tacklers to the Lions 40-yard line before Austin Loveless made the tackle. Upton got the call to fight for yardage on first down but he was met in the backfield for the stop by Crowe. After a four yard loss, Benton took the hand-off straight up the middle where he was met by Moore, Gainey and others for the stop after a three yard gain. With the snap of the ball, Nichols went deep down the field on a pass connection with Z. Hubbert who made the reception advancing for the first down at the Panthers 30-yard line before Harper and Crowe could bring him down for the stop. First down brought Holliday up the middle for six yards and on second down Holliday took the hand-off over right tackle for the first down at the 14-yard line for an additional ten yard gain before Moore and Purser were able to bring him down for the stop. Sticking with Holliday on the rushing attack on first down, the Lions advanced the ball deeper to the 10-yard line and with the snap of the ball Nichols called his own number advancing to the 6-yard line where he was met for the stop by a host of angry Panthers. Benton got the call to carry on third down advancing for an additional five yards with Tidwell, Adcock and others on the stop for the Panthers leaving the Lions facing fourth down and one yard deep in the Panthers red zone. With the snap of the ball, Holliday took the hand-off across the goal line giving the Lions the lead once again 21 - 15. Benton's kick on the PAT sailed left with time expiring on the quarter.
Pierson made the reception on the ensuing kick from Benton at the 24-yard line setting the Panthers up for the ensuing possession. First down brought flags against the Panthers for a false start on the play and on the replay of down Harper was brought down in the backfield for the sack by Brubaker and Benton. Facing second down and nineteen yards, Moore rambled around the right side of the line of scrimmage where Huffman and Brubaker made the tackle at the Lions 45-yard line. With a new set of downs, Crowe took the hand-off out of the backfield over the left side with Alexander making the solo stop after a six yard gain. Second down brought a passing attempt with both teams being penalized on the play resulting in a replay of down for off-setting penalties. Facing third down at the 39-yard line, Harper called his own number and pushed his way up the middle behind his blockers for the first down at the 35-yard line. Harper continued the rushing attack taking the snap and rushing up the middle where he was met by Benton and Z. Hubbert for the stop. Second down brought more of Harper with the ball carrying duties this time attempting to gain yardage around the right end but Z. Hubbert was there for the stop. The Lions were penalized on the play for a personal foul away from the tackle moving the ball even deeper down to their own 15-yard line. Harper once again called his own number and raced around the right end with Z. Hubbert and Benton making the sack in the backfield at the 21-yard line. Facing second down and sixteen, Harper went to the air attack and connected with Moore in the left corner of the end zone for the score allowing the Panthers to take their first lead of the game with 8:58 remaining in the contest. The PAT kick was perfect by Raper leaving the score 22 - 21 in favor of the home-standing Panthers.
Barnett's ensuing kick was fielded by Holliday at the 45-yard line where he was met for the stop by Gainey and a host of others. Nichols and the Lions offensive front lined-up to begin the drive and on first down Benton took the ball around the left side of the line of scrimmage where he was met after an eight yard gain for the stop by Fincher and Harper. Sticking with Benton on the rushing attack, the Lions moved the ball deeper and following the play the Panthers found themselves being penalized for a personal foul advancing the ball to their own 22-yard line. Upton got the call to continue the rushing attack on first down advancing deeper on the Panthers and picking up the first down at the 12-yard line before Harper and Fincher could bring him down for the stop. With a new set of downs at the 12-yard line, Holliday took the hand-off advancing the ball an additional yard with Alex Galloway making the solo tackle and leaving the Lions facing second down at the eleven yard line. Benton got the call to advance the ball deeper taking the ball over the right side of the line of scrimmage following his blockers to just near the first down marker. Following measurement by the officials the Lions found themselves facing third down and inches. Holliday took the hand-off fighting his way to the 1-yard line with Galloway and Barnett making the saving stop. With a new set of downs, the Lions punished themselves with a false start moving the ball back five yards. Before the Lions could snap the ball the Panthers found themselves being penalized for jumping off-sides returning the penalty yardage back to the Lions. Facing second down and goal, Benton took the ball around the right end advancing untouched into the end zone for the touchdown with 4:33 remaining in the game. The pass fell incomplete on the two-point conversion but the Lions had regained the lead 27 - 22 with time becoming a factor in the game.
Benton's ensuing kick was fielded at the 19-yard line by Fuller who raced up field and out of bounds at the Panthers 44-yard line. Holliday, Tranum, Huffman and a host of other Lion defenders were on the stop on first down bring Fincher down in the backfield for a three-yard loss. Second down brought Harper connecting with Fincher advancing the ball across mid-field just near the Lions 46-yard line. Facing third down and inches, Harper called his own number taking the ball around the right end where he was met by Brady Tucker for the stop at the 45-yard line. With the new set of downs secured, first down brought Crowe with the hand-off but Huffman and Benton were quick in the backfield for the take-down. The Panthers were penalized for holding on the play which resulted in a large yardage loss moving the ball back to their own 42-yard line. Facing second down the Panthers were determined to fight to regain the loss yardage but misery struck as Holliday and Snow made the hit on the ball carrier forcing the ball loose with Benton making the mid-air catch of the ball and securing the fumble recovery for the Lions.
First down brought penalty flags flying prior to the snap for an illegal procedure infraction against the Lions and moving the ball back to the Panthers 47-yard line. On the replay of down, Holliday took the hand-off over left tackle regaining the loss yardage before Adcock and a host of angry defenders could make the stop. Second down brought Benton with the hand-off over the right side of the line of scrimmage with the ball coming loose but lucky for the Lions, Snow was in place for the recovery at the 30-yard line. First down brought Holliday up the middle with the carry advancing the ball to the 15-yard line securing the possession. Benton then took the hand-off over right tackle on first down moving the ball deeper to the 9-yard line with Purser and Moore making the saving tackle. The Panthers called time-out and when play resumed, Benton took the hand-off once again securing the drive by picking up another first down near the 2-yard line as time was ticking from the game clock. First down brought Nichols kneeling down on to his knee and then again on second down taking a knee allowing time to expire and securing the victory for the Lions 27 - 22.
Game captains for the Panthers were senior players: Andrew Adcock, Steven Harper, Isaiah Purser and Courtry Stidham. Representing the Lions as game captains were senior players: Dax Benton, Ryan Brubaker, Tristan Nairemore, Trey Snow, Tre Tranum, Austin Tucker and Brett Wright.
With the win the Lions (10 - 1) advance to the third round of the play-offs and will host the Addison Bulldogs (12 - 0) of Region Seven. The game will take place at Wiley Hollingsworth Stadium on the campus of Hubbertville school. Game time is 7:00p.m.
Comments following the game from Head Coach Lamar Harris:
"We knew what was in store for our team before we arrived here tonight and the outcome of the game stood as a proof of that without a doubt. We had a very physical contest on our hands and we had to fight from the start until the finish to exit that field with the win. Over all I thought the guys on both sides of the ball played very physical and extremely hard and stuck with our game plan. We stressed in our practices this past week that we had to maintain our focus and not allow big plays to take the momentum of the game from us. I will say that I feel as though we did not play with discipline at times in the game tonight and that will be addressed during our upcoming week on the practice field. I was visibly disappointed and those who have been around know that aspect of playing doesn't work well with me. We had way too many penalties which was of concern and could have easily cost us the game. The guys have got to understand that we just can't allow emotions to take over because in the end that will cost more than just yardage on the down, it can easily take the game out of reach. Following the half-time break, I was particularly disappointed with the team after we took to the field for the second half opening. We just didn't stand-up defensively, we seemed as though we were disappointed in some ways and I'm not at all happy with the opening drive which we allowed following our locker room visit. Our defense did get back on track after that drive and they stepped up and managed to make some very big decisively plays especially late in the game. Our offense was clicking really well tonight and they did what we asked of them in the second half. You never really know what to expect as you move deeper into the play-off season but I'm extremely proud of the team for finding the way and the will to stick it out and the effort to get the win. I do want to commend the players from Hackleburg, they played a very tough game and were disciplined with the hope of taking the wind out of our game plan. They have a great group of athletes and they really were fired up for this game. Both teams played extremely well tonight and I was really pleased overall except for my previous comments and for the personal fouls which were called on both teams. I thank our loyal fan base for their attendance up here tonight and for their overwhelming support to our team. I assure you that our players appreciate those who follow them and show up in the stands to cheer them on and express their loudness when we need them cheering for us. We have a very tough team coming into our stadium next Friday night and we know we can depend on our dedicated fans to show up and be there for our guys. I'm just hoping that we can remain focused and continue our team goal which will give us the opportunity to advance further on into the play-offs."