Northwest Rankins’ kicker Christian Baglione ended Petal’s hopes of victory by nailing a field goal as time expired to give the Cougars a final 31-30 lead over the Panthers.
The Cougars have now won six straight games since losing its first of the season. Petal nearly ended the streak, but with the loss, now stand at 3-4 on the season. Petal coach Marcus Boyles described his team’s fight throughout the game.
“The kids just competed so hard for 48 minutes,” Boyles said. “Northwest has got a heck of football team. I’m just really proud of our team. I told our kids we have nothing to hang our heads about. (There were) a lot of emotions on that last drive but our kids laid it on the line.”
The game’s lead swung back and forth between the two teams, but the Cougars controlled the lead the majority of the first half.
After quarterback Caleb Parten threw an interception to the Panthers on the first drive, he led the offense down on its second possession to score the game’s first touchdown on a 16-yard pass to Jordan Cavitt.
Petal responded on the next drive with a touchdown of its own as quarterback Jackson Allen rolled outside of the pocket and launched the ball into a crowded endzone to find Garrett Barger for a six-yard touchdown.
After Petal turned the ball over on downs, running back Cam Marion led the Cougars down the field and scored on a four-yard rush.
The Panthers shifted the game’s momentum in the second quarter. After a 38-yard completion to Micah Cherry, Allen ran in for a touchdown on a quarterback keeper. The Panthers then converted the two-point conversion to tie the game at 14.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, the Panthers marched from its own five-yard line to within the red zone. As time expired, kicker Nate Jones made a field goal to give the Panthers a 17-14 lead at halftime.
The Panthers built their lead coming out of halftime and looked to run away with the game. On the first drive of the half, the Panthers conducted a 14-play drive and scored on a goal line run from Jeremiah Robinson.
However, Northwest Rankin began its comeback late in the third quarter on a quick four-play drive. Parten threw for his second touchdown of the game on a 28-yard pass once again to Cavitt.
The Cougars’ defense made a crucial stop on the next drive, stopping the Panthers from scoring at the goal line. Instead, the Panthers settled for another field goal to extend its lead by six.
Northwest Rankin took advantage of a deep kickoff return by leading a short drive, which was finished by a three-yard touchdown rush from Marion. With the extra point, the Cougars took its first lead since the second quarter.
With four minutes remaining, Petal received the ball with the need to score at least a field goal. The Panthers faced a fourth down, but was granted a first down after a pass interference was called on the Cougars. Allen then found Robinson for a 34-yard gain, which set up a 26-yard field goal to give the Panthers a 30-28 lead.
However, the game’s final two minutes proved to be just enough for the Cougars to drive the ball all the way down to the one-yard line to set up the game-winning field goal.
Marion led the Northwest Rankin offense with 177 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.
“He’s a heck of a running back,” Boyles said. “He’s a strong kid and he just ran hard and with power. I thought we did a good job with him most of the night but a kid like him will go get his yards. They’ve got a great offensive line.”
For the Panthers, Allen finished with 32 completions on 54 attempts for 352 passing yards and one touchdown along with his rushing touchdown.
“He had a great night,” Boyles said. “Our offensive line really gave him time and I thought we had some receivers, some young kids step up. Again, Jeremiah Robinson, what a great player he is. (He had) a big play down here on the fourth-down play to give us the field goal.”
Robinson finished the game with 12 receptions for 164 yards and one rushing touchdown.
Boyles explained that his team needs to quickly move on from the tough loss to prepare for its next game.
“We’ve got to win out to make the playoffs now so we hold our own destiny,” Boyles said. “We’ve got to go to Meridian on Thursday night. We’ve got a short week, so we have to get ready to play.”