Friday night’s matchup in Petal was a battle of two of the state’s Top 10 teams as the No. 10 Panthers welcomed the No. 5 Brandon Bulldogs to town. In a game that was neck and neck, it was a 35-yard field goal by sophomore Nate Jones as time ran out that put the Panthers on top, 27-24, pushing Petal’s season record to 6-1.
Jones said a lot was going through his mind during the final play, but he remained calm and focused on the kick as Brandon tried to ice him twice.
“God’s got this and it’s His will,” Jones said. “He gave me the abilities and I just have to go out there and perform.”
But it wasn’t just the end of the game that was explosive. The first half of play was dynamic for both teams. Petal’s hurry-up offense worked in the Panthers’ favor allowing them to capitalize on three touchdowns before halftime.
Senior running back Micah Mcgowan had two touchdowns, rushing in for both a 2 and 3-yard TD. The other touchdown was credited to senior quarterback DeCarlos Nicholson when he faked a handoff to Mcgowan and ran the ball in for a 7-yard touchdown.
Not wanting to go into halftime empty handed, the Bulldogs were ready to tack on points of their own in the second quarter. Ozarrio Smith ran 7 yards into the endzone with 11:14 to go in the half. That score was followed by another six points when senior quarterback Will Rogers threw a 9-yard TD pass to wide receiver Ashton Nickelberry before the half ended.
The second half of play remained just as fast paced as the first for both teams. Neither team added any points to the board during the third quarter, but everything came down to the wire in the fourth.
Brandon tied the game twice in the final minutes of play. With 2:53 remaining on the clock, the Panthers took over with the score tied at 24. With 2 seconds remaining in the game, Coach Marcus Boyles called a timeout giving Jones a few extra seconds and the opportunity to win the game for Petal.
Two consecutive timeouts by the Bulldogs failed to ice Jones’ kick. There were very few Panther fans still seated as the ball was snapped on the final play and Jones made the 35-yard field goal as the clock ran out.
After the game, Boyles referenced Fellow of Christian Athletes Area Director Mitch Williams who gave the team’s devotional prior to the game.
“The devotion was about ‘finishing strong,’” said Boyles, “finishing and fighting until the end and never quitting.”
Boyles was proud of his team who he said gave all their effort for 48 minutes and finished strong.
“There isn’t much more you can ask for as a coach when your team delivers exactly how you want them to,” said Boyles, who made it very clear that his team would not be resting in the upcoming days because he wants them to “be even better than we were against The Brandon Bulldogs.”
This is the second Top 5 team the Panthers have beaten. Their only loss on the season was to Laurel, that is ranked fourth in Class 5A.
The Panthers will continue practice during the upcoming fall break to be ready to meet the Northwest Rankin Rebels at 7 p.m. Oct. 18.