With two minutes and 28 seconds left in the game, Petal trailed 34-31 as West Jones took the lead after being shut out at halftime.
Petal quarterback Jackson Allen marched the Panthers from their own 33-yard line into West Jones territory.
Allen, who was efficient all night, converted three fourth downs and a third and long to set up a potential game-tying field goal. With less than seven seconds left on the clock, Petal kicker Nate Jones missed the 34-yard field goal and failed to send the game into overtime.
For Petal coach Marcus Boyles, the ending was a disappointment as he believed his team played poorly in the second half.
“It should have never come to that,” Boyles said. We have to make plays. We had plenty of opportunities on offense and defense to make plays.”
“We have to do better in the second half from everyone in the locker room, to me and all the other coaches to all 80 players, we have to finish the second half.”
For West Jones coach Scott Pierson, the missed kick was not only a shocking sight but also helped the Mustangs preserve their now 17-game home winning streak.
“I saw him kick it pregame, and I really didn’t think he was going to miss it,” Pierson said. “I thought he was going to make the kick, and we were going into overtime. As a coach, you have to prepare for that.
“They knew what was on the line. They needed to make a play, and they did. It’s all about our kids. Our kids believed they could win, no matter what the score is, no matter what’s going on. They have proved it for three straight years, and that’s what’s amazing. We had a chance at halftime to run low, but we didn’t.”
Petal (2-1) managed to capitalize on West Jones’ mistakes and dominate the second quarter. Allen opened the quarter by connecting with wide Jeremiah Robinson for a 73-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, West Jones fumbled, and the Panthers scored again on a 25-yard field goal. The pattern again followed as the Mustangs coughed up another fumbled on the following kickoff. Robinson then capped off the quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run to extend the lead 17-0.
At the same time, West Jones’ offense only stepped on the field for one drive in the second quarter, which resulted in a three and out. By the end of the night, Petal ran 71 plays compared to West Jones’ 53.
After a pair of three and outs, the Mustangs (3-0) found a spark with a 40-yard punt return that resulted in a touchdown and narrowed the lead 17-7.
However, Allen connected with Garrett Barger on the following play for a 43-yard touchdown to push the Panthers’ lead to 24-7.
Despite the quick answer, West Jones’ offense found momentum behind quarterback Allen Follis, who was held to 6-of-11 for 54 yards in the first half.
After throwing an interception on the team’s first drive in the second half, Follis threw a 57-yard touchdown to make the game 24-14.
Allen found Robinson again for a 3-yard touchdown and kept Petal ahead by 31-14 near the end of the third quarter. Robinson finished the night with three touchdowns and hauled in six catches for 164 yards while Allen finished 20-of-36 and passed for 312 yards and three touchdowns.
“Their quarterback is really good,” Pierson said. “He was giving us fits all night. We were very fortunate to make some plays. When our offense got rolling, it really let our defense rest and have confidence with feeling better about making stops.”
According to Pierson, his defense’s biggest adjustment was adding pressure to the edge to limit Allen’s ability in the pocket.
“Defensively, we slid the front so we could start getting pressure off the edge,” Pierson said. “We made (Allen) stay in the pocket, but he hurt us a little bit by running up the middle. But we didn’t want him to get comfortable on the edge.”
However, Follis began to lead a fourth quarterback comeback as he threw two touchdown passes in the quarter while setting up the Mustangs go-ahead touchdown.
“He is special,” Pierson said. “Not only is he a great player and makes great throws, but his will to win is what separates him. He had a chance to fold. The whole second quarter, he didn’t touch the ball. We kept turning it over. He could have come out there and started pressing. He didn’t, and he let the game come to him. He settled and had a phenomenal night.”
Follis was 15-of-21 in the second half and finished the game 21-of-32 while throwing for 290 yards and three touchdowns.
While Boyles hopes that the loss will serve as a learning experience for his team, the game was also frustrating and the Panthers’ main focus moving ahead will be to become a better second-half team.
“We played good in the first half, but give credit to West Jones, they whipped us in the second half,” Boyles said. “This is three weeks in a row that we have not played a good second half. Until we start playing a good second half, we are a very average football team.”