The Beauregard Hornets (3-6 overall) managed to overcome 21 unanswered points to beat the Elmore County Panthers (1-7) 42-28 on a cool, crisp Friday night in Eclectic in what can best be described as a tale of two halves.
The first half could not have started better for the Hornets. Senior K Cason Santa Anna’s opening kick-off landed in a perfect spot, causing the Aggie receiver, hastily scurrying to recover the free kick, to fumble and give the Hornets the ball deep in Panther territory. One play later, QB Gavin Prickett connected with WR Tyler Gordon for a touchdown and the Hornets had drawn first blood at 7-0. The rest of the half, however – well that would prove to be tough sledding.
Eager for their first game action in two weeks, Elmore County was unfazed by the Hornets quick strike and answered in impressive fashion. First, a 62-yard drive was capped off by a 10-yard touchdown pass, followed by a Hornet turnover and another Panther drive that resulted in a 48-yard touchdown pass, then another score by ground, staggering the Hornet defense, who found themselves in a 21-7 hole by the end of the first quarter.
The beginning of the second quarter found the Hornets with the ball and marching when Prickett, facing a critical fourth-and-five situation, ran a quarterback draw and fought his way through defenders to gain first down yardage and to keep the drive alive. Just a couple plays later and senior RB Trent Jones found pay dirt from 5 yards out to bring the Hornets closer at 21-14.
Elmore County answered right back with the Hornet defense still on their heels, an 82-yard drive of their own capped off by a 3-yard QB run, increasing the Panthers lead to a score of 28-14.
Then, with only seconds remaining in the first half, a Panther defender stepped in front of a Prickett pass deep in Hornet territory and was headed for the end zone for an apparent score when, out of nowhere, Gordon ran the defender down to prevent the Panther touchdown as time expired in the half.
The first half stats were not pretty as the Hornets offense possessed the ball for only nine minutes and eked out a paltry 80 yards of total offense (58 pass / 22 rushing) while giving up 247 total yards and 14 minutes of ball possession while on defense.
Prickett was picked off again on Beauregard’s first possession of the second half, but it would not matter this time. A markedly improved and seemingly challenged Hornet defense took the field in the second half, flexed their muscle and forced the Panthers to give the ball back after three plays.
Then on Beauregard’s next possession, Jones took a handoff from Prickett, bounced it to the outside and outraced the Panther defense for a 71-yard touchdown romp to pull Beauregard to within a touchdown at 28-21.
Sporting a newfound nastiness and swagger, the Hornet defense made play after play in the second half to continuously put the ball back in the hands of the Hornet offense who responded in kind. Prickett found WR Keyshon Tolefree on a 40-yard touchdown strike to even the score at 28 apiece with 3:05 remaining in the third quarter. The same QB/WR combination hooked up again, this time for 29 yards and a score, to push the Hornets ahead 35-28 early in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers offense, who enjoyed much success in the first half, was completely shut down and could not manage to score another point in the game with the Hornets defensive now dominating the game.
Meanwhile Beauregard’s offense, anchored by the solid play of Prickett, never let up. Prickett scampered for 14 yards and another touchdown to put the game out of reach with three minutes remaining.
Jones picked off a batted Panther pass in the final seconds of the game to seal the victory for the Hornets with the final score being 42-28, in fitting fashion of Beauregard’s superb second half performance.
The Hornets’ second half stats were impressive as well: 271 total yards (137 pass / 134 rushing) of offense, while the defense only allowed the Panthers a meager 58 yards of total offense.
Head Coach Rob Carter was elated by his team’s performance after the game.
I’m so proud of our guys and the way they came back from such a big deficit,” he said. “We shot ourselves in the foot in the first quarter and then made some good adjustments at the half – we needed to come back and win. It’s been a tough year, but they kept fighting, I couldn’t be more proud of a group of players as I am of these guys.”
The Hornets have added a final home game (non-conference) against St. Anne-Pacelli of Columbus, Georgia. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22. Beauregard High School is located at 7343 Alabama Highway 51, Opelika, Alabama, 36804.