By Wil Crews
Smiths Station quarterback Corey Minton ran for 20 yards, on the first two drives of the game, and completed six of his first eight passes for 34 yards. Although the Panther QB started with a renewed look of confidence, the Smiths Station Panthers (1-3) fell to the Prattville Lions (3-1) at home on Friday, 31-3.
The scoreboard may not have shown it, but overall, this was one of the better performances that the Panthers have had this season. Smiths Station managed to force their first turnover of the season but head coach Mike Glisson said he knows it’s not enough.
“We don’t make plays,” Glisson said after the game. “We had chances to make big plays, keep drives going and get into the end zone. We just didn’t get it done. We shot ourselves in the foot and we got to grow up on the offensive side of the ball.”
Panther Stadium was covered by clear skies and both the Panthers and the Lions looked for their first regional win of the season.
The Panthers faced a third and goal from the eight on the first drive of the game. Minton failed to connect with his receiver on a back shoulder end zone throw. The Panthers were forced to settle for a field goal after accumulating six first downs on their opening eight-minute, 18-play drive. Smiths Station led 3-0 with 3:48 left in the first quarter.
The Lions and junior QB E.J. Ousley came out looking confident in their own right, marching down the field on their first drive – primarily through grind-it-out runs. Ousley capped the Lions’ opening drive with a pinpoint 25-yard touchdown pass. The Lions answered and led 7-3 after one.
From there, Smiths Station struggled to maintain any sort of rhythm. A good indicator of that was the single first down the Panthers managed to register for the remainder of the first half.
Prattville scored again on the first play of their third drive. A screen pass to senior wide receiver Zavion Smith went for a 60-yard touchdown. Smith caught the ball and proceeded as if the Panther defense didn’t exist – leaving them staggering, arms flailing like gummy worms as they failed to wrap up the receiver. He cut back across the middle, slipped what seemed like eight flimsy Panther tacklers and sprinted into the end zone. 14-3 Lions with 6:17 left in the second quarter.
For the rest of the game, the Panther offense continuously stalled and the Lion offense continued to roll. Ousley hit senior tight end Spender Roy on a 15-yard seam pass – similar to one he had earlier in the drive – for a third Lions’ touchdown. And the Lions would miss a 52-yard field goal to end the half. Smiths Station went into the break facing a large deficit for the third week in a row.
The rain began to pour as the second half inched along. Fittingly, the Lions poured seven more points onto the scoreboard. A touchdown run by running back De’aundre Williams put the Lions up 28-3 with 7:15 left in the third quarter.
The game then entered a lightning delay, and, after about 30 minutes, the Panthers returned to the field with what appeared to be a renewed sense of energy and purpose. The Panthers came out of the lightning break donning a heavy package on offense after relying on outside runs for most of the game – presumably to avoid 4-star Alabama recruit, Prattville linebacker Ian Jackson. The Panthers had more success running the ball with every player packed between the hashes with the Lions’ backups now on the field. Still, the Lions flexed their superiority and quickly subdued any hopes of a comeback.
Smiths Station failed to score again for the rest of the game despite threatening late and Prattville’s junior kicker James Colin Rodgers added a 40-yard field goal for the final points of the contest. Final Score: Prattville 31 – Smiths 3.
Minton led the way for the Panthers with multiple big plays and timely third down conversions – mostly with his legs instead of his arm. Smiths finished with two turnovers to Prattville’s one and the Lions dominated the field position and time of possession battles throughout the game – partially due to Rodgers booting all but one of the Lions’ kick-offs out of the end zone.
Smiths Station are now at the bottom of the 6A Region 2 rankings. The Panthers have a bye next week and will travel to face the Benjamin Russell Wildcats in a non-regional game on Sept. 25. Martin-Savarese Stadium is located at 225 Heard Blvd., Alexander City, Alabama 35010.
“We’ve had a tough three games,” Glisson said. “We just have to keep our heads up.”