PETRO: The Petal Panthers are clutch

By CAMAL PETRO,

Two Fridays ago, when I left Oak Grove High School after Petal stunned the Warriors, I considered that one of the best high school games that I have ever witnessed. After last week’s Petal win over Brandon, I believe that was the best finish that I’ve ever seen in a high school game.

Just call the Petal players the “cardiac kids” because both games had my heart racing. Sure, I cover Petal so it benefits me when it wins, but I have zero ties to the school nor do I sit on the sidelines every Friday night rooting Petal, or any team I cover, for that matter. It’s my job to be unbiased.

I will say, however, I enjoy every coach, player and everybody else I work with it that’s a part of these teams, so it’s great to see them succeed. I couldn’t help but get excited during finishes like those, though.

Saying that, I was standing on the sideline last Friday night shaking. Whether it was nerves or excitement, I’m sure you can see it in some of the videos I posted on Twitter or on the website.

I wasn’t necessarily hoping Petal would win, but being next to the Panthers’ players and coaches, I could feel the pressure of the situation. As it turns out, the pressure didn’t matter for the players on the field, because the Petal offense had back-to-back weeks of clutch drives at the end of the two games.

When Oak Grove’s John Rhys Plumlee made his 95-yard touchdown run, I thought Petal was toast. Oak Grove would move to 2-0 in the region and Petal would fall to 0-2, I assumed. Well, you know what happens when people assume, right?

I talked to Petal quarterback Jordan Wilson after the game and asked what he told his offense before they took the field after the 95-yard score from the Warriors. He said they were confident and ready to move down the field to regain the lead. They did, and a defensive stop at the end of the game sealed the first of two straight wins.

Trailing 28-21 against Brandon, and after giving up a 21-7 lead, Wilson helped lead the offense down the field the again to tie the game and send it to overtime. The offense will get a lot of airtime from people like me, and deservingly so, but the defense is what finished off both games.

“The second week in a row they save us,” Petal coach Marcus Boyles told me this week about his defense. “Last week against Oak Grove they came up with a big sack, then this week, a fourth-down stop on the goal line. Man, what a great effort by our defense when we really needed a big stop.”

When Brandon scored three straight touchdowns to take the 28-21 lead, I never felt dejection from the Petal sideline. The players huddled up and were ready to take the field for a potential comeback. That’s a mentality they can use throughout the rest of the season and the playoffs.

When the Petal Panthers are tied or trailing in the final minutes of a game, I have no doubt they can move down the field for a game-winning drive. They’ve done it twice already, and against two pretty good teams. While some teams might freeze or think too much in those situations, Petal does not.

Follow Camal on Twitter via @PineBeltSPORTS or email him: camal@PineBeltSPORTS.com