By Morgan Bryce
A mere 24 inches separated Stanhope Elmore from spoiling Smiths Station’s homecoming celebration Friday night as the Panthers eked out a 14-9 win.
Following an intentional safety with fewer than 10 seconds remaining, the Panthers kicked off to Stanhope Elmore’s Jalen Walker who cut against the grain of his blockers on the return, appearing destined for pay dirt. A gang of black shirts would converge on him at the two-foot line to preserve the Smiths Station victory.
“The whole time I was watching that kickoff, I was thinking one thing: ‘get him on the ground.’ This is the first homecoming game win that we’ve won in five years, and boy did we need this momentum,” said Smiths Station Coach Mike Glisson.
Stanhope Elmore raced down the field through a well-balanced offensive attack on the game’s opening series before a myriad of senseless penalties bogged down and ultimately ended the drive.
Back-to-back three-and-outs by both sides followed before Smiths Station’s Corey Minton faked a handoff to running back L.C. Harris on a read-option play for a 59-yard gain to ignite the Panther faithful. A play later, Harris plowed in from three yards out for the first score of the game, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead with 1:40 left in the first quarter.
Stanhope Elmore swapped quarterback play between Jeremy Powers and Kerenski McGhee from the second through fourth quarters, but Powers led the Mustangs on their one and only scoring drive.
Relying on designed quarterback keepers and bootleg passing plays, the Mustangs raced down the field, setting up a powerful nine-yard TD burst from junior running back Travarasia Duncan to tie the game midway through the second quarter.
A questionable fake punt by the Mustangs late in the second quarter set up the Panthers with prime field position inside the Stanhope Elmore 20-yard line. Two ensuing field goal attempts (a retry following a roughing the kicker penalty) by Chance Walker missed the mark, leaving the score tied at halftime.
During the halftime performance, the Smiths Station Marching Band performed an extended rendition of “My Girl” by The Tempations as the homecoming court was announced. Senior Jordan Bragg was announced as the homecoming queen.
D.J. Moffett and the rest of the Panther front seven dominated the second half, making up for an offense bogged down by inept line play and overall poor execution.
Tied 7-7 with fewer than seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Moffett took out his frustrations on Mustang defenders, running through three arm tackles en route to a seven-yard TD. Walker banged the extra point through to give Smiths Station a 14-7 lead, which they never relinquished.
After the game, Glisson beamed when describing the character and grit of his team that is now 4-2 overall and well in control of its own playoff destiny.
“There’s not a group I’d wanna coach more than that group over there in the black (and silver). They’re fighters, they’re great kids from great families and an outstanding community,” Glisson said. “I’m proud to be here and I’m happy to be here and so happy to be a part of this.”
Smiths Station will host Jefferson Davis next Friday night in a pivotal region match-up. The Volunteers, 1-4 overall, won their first game of the season last week v. Sidney Lanier 26-21.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. C.S.T. Panther Stadium is located along Lee Road 298, adjacent to the Smiths Station Government Center.