Panthers scratch out another thrilling win
Joey Guest – Special to the Weakley County Press
Jenus Hussey ran for 91 yards and two touchdowns, including a brilliant dash for 62 yards that led to the go-ahead score, as Martin improved its record to 2-2 on the season.
The Panthers have an open date before visiting Jackson-Tigrette on Oct. 1. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m.
Despite all the new twists on offense, it was a strategic defensive call from the sidelines in the waning moments that ensured the victory.
Having already been burned by three first-down catches on long-yardage situations by Trenton’s talented tight end David Rodemaker, MMS assistant coach John Lifsey made an adjustment that put star linebacker Michael Ashmore head up against the dangerous receiver.
And, on fourth down and two minutes remaining, with the Bears at the Martin 26-yard line, Ashmore broke up a pass intended for Rodemaker to seal the victory.
“Coach Lifsey made the call and had Michael shadow their tight end,” head coach Mike Stigall said. “And, sure enough, it paid off.”
Ashmore also played a new role in the offense, taking snaps from his tailback position in a formation scheme dubbed the “Wild Panther” offense.
“That’s our version of the Wildcat offense,” Stigall said of the popular scheme used often in college and pro games lately. “We were able to let Michael sprint out a little bit, run some reverses with it and other handoffs, and it turned out pretty good.”
Also turning out well for the Panthers was the play of seventh-grade signal-caller Houston Haag, who was making his first start at QB for injured starter Beau Kelly. Although he completed neither of his two attempted passes, Haag executed well and played mistake-free football, impressing Stigall.
“I thought he did a real good job and showed a lot of poise for a seventh-grader.”
To add to those impressive performances on offense by the Panthers, Billy Johnson provided a spark to the running game with 31 hard-nosed yards on the ground. While, defensively, Drew Smith was a beast in the Bears’ backfield with three tackles for loss, and Ryan Austin was his usually dominant self in the trenches.
As had been the case in all three of its previous games this year, Martin had to play from behind. And for the second time in as many weeks, they did so to take the victory, this time over a tough Trenton team coached by former Panthers head coach Doug Argo.
After a brilliant punt by Johnson rolled out of bounds inside the Bears 5-yard line, Trenton put together an enormous drive on its opening possession, going 96 yards in 17 plays for paydirt. Bears’ speedy halfback Alexzadrain Nesbitt hauled the mail 15 times in the drive, capping it with a 4-yard plunge at 5:17 of the second quarter.
Ashmore, Austin and Landon Pitcher combined to stop Nesbitt’s two-point run attempt, keeping Martin’s deficit at 6-0.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers took possession at their 37 and lost 21 yards in two plays on bad snaps to Ashmore.
But, a pass interference penalty on third-and-31 allowed Martin to claw out of its hole, and then Ashmore carried twice for 30 and 11 yards to cross into Trenton territory.
Three plays later, Hussey took the toss left and raced 10 yards to the end zone to knot the score at 6-all after the conversion attempt failed.
Just as it had done in the first half, Trenton turned its first possession of the second half into a scoring drive as William Harris capped a nine-play, 53-yard drive with a 7-yard TD run. A host of Panthers, including Austin, Ashmore and Bo Guest, combined to stop Harris on the conversion run, but the Bears had the lead, 12-6, at 3:49 of the third frame.
Martin wasted little time in responding as Ty Brown scooped up the kickoff at his own 9 and made a magnificent return through a whirlwind of would-be tacklers to the Panther 34, setting up Hussey’s dazzling 62-yard reverse dash down the sideline to the Trenton 4, where Johnson punched it in two plays later to tie the game again. Ashmore barreled up the middle, just crossing the goal line for the two-pointer and a 14-12 lead at 2:33 of the third.
A three-and-out defensive stand by Martin on Trenton’s ensuing possession returned the ball to the Panthers at the Bears 33 following a gutsy scoop and punt return by Johnson.
A 5-yard QB sneak by Haag and a tough 11-yard run by Johnson gave Martin first-and-goal at the 7, where Hussey carried twice to finish the scoring at 20-12 with 5:17 left.
Ashmore’s break-up of Braxton Baugus’ fourth-down pass to Rodamaker ended Trenton’s comeback hopes and sealed the victory for Martin.
Editor's Note: Joey Guest is a free-lance writer and associate editor of Pressbox1.com. He can be reached at email@example.com or 731-332-1164.