PETRO: The Petal Panthers are clutch


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.

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