LAUREL- The Quitman Panthers won their first game of the season here Friday night, 6-4, over the home standing Northeast Jones Tigers in a Region 5-4A contest. “It was a much needed win for our team," said Quitman head football coach Rashad Gandy. “We needed this win for our confidence because it has been a tough year. The players have worked hard and deserve this,” stated Gandy.
The only touchdown of the contest came four minutes into the second period when Donavan Williams scored from the 1-yard line. The Panthers' only scoring drive of the night was a mixture of runs and passes. QHS ran the ball eight times and passed for another four times in crucial situations to keep the Tigers off balance during the 12-play 80- yard drive. The Panthers converted a big fourth down and three yards to go play at the Tigers' 45-yard line as they lined up big offensive lineman Robert Thompson in the backfield and he proceeded to plow his way 13 yards for the first down. “We put that play in special for this week," said a smiling Gandy. “Our offense on that scoring drive was just taking what they were giving us,” added Gandy.
Northeast had their chances in the contest as the Tigers defense completely shut down the Panthers offense, especially in the second half. Quitman ran only 12 plays for minus three yards in the final 24 minutes. Quitman was forced to punt on three of their four second half offensive possessions and intentionally gave NEJ a safety on their final possession of the game. “I thought our defense played good,” said NE Jones head coach Keith Braddock. The Panthers ended the night with 91 yards of total offense.
“We shot ourselves in the foot on offense. We are young on that side of the ball and our inexperience shows up at times,” stated Braddock. The Tigers ran the ball for 154 yards behind the running of Creed Johnson, Zac Dyess, Devin Hudson and Kye Braddock, but the passing game never connected. Northeast had several drives in the contest and twice during the game moved to the Panthers' 11- and 6-yard lines but failed to convert on those opportunities.
Quitman’s Gandy was proud of his team’s defensive bend-but-don't-break effort. “They gave us a chance to win and they ran to the ball all night and most of all never gave up,” stated Gandy.
The Tigers forced the Panthers to punt with 8:25 to play in the game and took over on the Panthers' 42-yard line. Nine plays and three first downs later, NEJ had a first and goal at the Panthers 8-yard line. Four plays later, Quitman was taking over on downs at their own 4-yard line. The NEJ defense held their own, and on fourth down the Panthers' punter ran out of the back of the end zone, awarding the Tigers two points. Northeast then took over on the Quitman 42-yard line, but a couple of desperation passes never found a familiar Tiger jersey.
Justin Ulmer of Northeast recorded a sack of the Panther quarterback at the 8:11 mark of the first period to give the Tigers their only lead of the night.
Northeast (1-2, 1-4) will host Mendenhall while Quitman (1-2, 1-4) will host Richland next week.