Late touchdown helps MMS shake free from losing feeling
Joey Guest – Special to the Weakley County Press
Facing fourth-and-10 and time winding down, Haag sidestepped a Jaguars pass rush and threw a strike to Hussey on a post pattern into the end zone to knot the score at 6. Ashmore took the conversion handoff on a dive play up the middle, got stood up at the 2 and muscled his way across the goal line for the game-winning points with barely more than a minute left in regulation.
The jubilant sideline and Panthers faithful showed the emotions of a team that had lost two close contests to start the season and had rebounded to snatch a victory in the waning moments for its first win of the 2009 campaign.
“I think it helps our heart, for one thing,” said Martin head coach Mike Stigall of his team’s victory. “They know they can win now. We can get rid of that losing mentality and get the winning mentality going, and I think that will help us.”
The Panthers’ desire to win proved resilient in a defensive struggle that saw Martin earn just two first downs in the game — one on its first offensive play from scrimmage and another on its last. In fact, Martin (1-2) was held to a mere 10 yards of total offense in the contest as the Jags’ defensive front recorded nine tackles for negative yardage.
The Panther defense rose to the challenge, however, in holding Northeast (2-1) to 2.1 yards per play and 73 yards on the ground. Neither offense could orchestrate anything resembling a scoring drive in the game as each team recorded just two positive yardage plays of more than 10 yards.
Both TDs came as the result of superb field position after miscues in the punting game.
Northeast Middle put the first points on the board early in the second quarter after the snap on Billy Johnson’s punt attempt sailed over his head and was downed at the Martin 4-yard line, where QB Cedric Hampton carried it in for paydirt one play later for a 6-0 lead. Jagkarri Waller’s plunge up the middle was stopped by Bo Guest and Ryan Austin to deny the conversion run attempt, which would later prove to be a critical stop, as the Jags led 6-0 with 7:13 left in the first half.
Martin’s TD, and subsequent game-winning conversion run, came after a 12-yard punt on fourth-and-17 gave the Panthers a first down at the Northeast 18-yard line with 3:27 left, setting up the game-winning sequence.
Each team lost its starting QB midway through the game, causing a scramble for production in the final minutes. Panther signal-caller Beau Kelly was helped off the field on the final play of the first half after aggravating a previous rib injury, while Northeast’s Hampton limped off late in the third quarter.
Martin Middle, which had been plagued by turnovers and penalties in its two prior losses, managed just one turnover-on-downs and no penalties in the contest. Conversely, the Jags gave possession up to Martin twice and were hit with five flags for 40 yards.
The Panthers look to even their record as they next take the field at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 17, at home against Trenton.
Editor’s Note: Joey Guest is a free-lance writer and associate editor of Pressbox1.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 731-332-1164.