Panthers Fall to Wildcats on Homecoming Night
BY HARRISON TARR
FOR THE OBSERVER
When the Smiths Station Panthers welcomed their fans and alumni back to the stands for the annual homecoming game on Friday night, the black and silver sought to return to the win column and turn its season around. Head coach Mike Glisson’s squad battled for 48 minutes but was ultimately unable to complete a comeback in a contest which resulted in a 33-30 loss at the hands of Benjamin Russell.
The Panthers came out of the gates hot, with junior running back Ahmari Peabody returning the opening kickoff back to the Wildcat 47. From there, Glisson’s squad continued to build momentum as they marched down to the Wildcat 14 before ultimately turning the ball over on downs on a broken up pass.
“I told the kids I was going to challenge them offensively from the get-go,” Glisson said. “So we did. We had a fourth down deep on the first drive deep in their territory. We ran the play that we knew would work. He was wide open and the cornerback hit him.”
Following the turnover on downs, the first quarter became a back-and-forth affair between the squads. The Wildcats took the ball 86 yards on the ensuing drive, effectively beginning the trading of scores. From there, Glisson’s squad moved the rock 60 yards, eventually finding paydirt on a 6-yard rush by senior running back Iverson Jones.
The Panthers’ leader pairs Jones’ success in the run game with the offensive line improvement.
“His role was very big but the offensive line was the one who really improved,” Glisson said. “They really worked hard. We’ve been on them and been hard on them and they had a great game.”
Benjamin Russell responded with a nine-yard touchdown through the air and began to take advantage of a lack-luster display by the Panther offense by building what eventually became an insurmountable lead.
The black and silver did find pay dirt via a 26-yard touchdown strike off the arm of junior quarterback Jackson Greer, yet still trailed 26-15 heading into the locker room at halftime.
Glisson was critical of his squad during the intermission.
“I told them we did everything we could possibly do wrong,” Glisson said. “We’ve made mistake after mistake and we’re still in the ball game. We’ve got to come out in the second half and overcome the hole we’ve dug.”
Despite having a rejuvenated outlook on the contest, the Panther defense was unable to combat an aggressive Wildcat offensive attack entering the second half of play; the maroon and white marched down the field on its opening drive, posting its final seven points via a 28-yard touchdown pass, pushing the margin to 33-15.
It was at this point at which Glisson’s team began to chip away at its opponent, developing a rhythm on the offensive side of the ball behind what Glisson describes as a more composed version of Greer.
“Let me tell you something about (Greer),” Glisson said. “He’s played really well all year. I think the first half of Friday night was the only game that he didn’t really play his best and he knew that. At halftime we were talking to him and he was very confident and said ‘coach, we’ll be fine.’ He came out after halftime and played lights out.”
The junior quarterback delivered a nine-yard touchdown strike to senior wideout Cianan Williams late in the third quarter to cut the Wildcat lead to 10 with just over 12 minutes remaining in regulation.
With the game within reach, the Panther defense buckled down and forced their opponents to punt, giving senior defensive back Brandon Green the opportunity to take a punt return for a 70-yard house call, bringing the black and silver within just a field goal.
“It did fire us up,” Glisson said. “We got a spark and I think you saw it when our defense got back on the field. We stuffed them and then we got the ball back.”
To the disappointment of fans who returned back to Smiths Station in hopes to see a Panther victory on homecoming night, Glisson’s squad was unable to complete the 18-point comeback and ultimately fizzled out on offense as time expired.
Smiths Station will have the opportunity to bounce back into the win column when the team travels to Montgomery, Alabama, to take on region foe — and 0-5 — Jefferson Davis on Saturday, Oct. 2. Kickoff between the Panthers and the Volunteers is set for 11 a.m. CST.