AMORY – Simply put, it was a tale of two halves at Longenecker Field. After falling behind 28-6 at halftime, the Amory Panthers scored three second-half touchdowns, but early turnovers and penalties were too much to overcome in a 46-28 season-opening loss to the rival Itawamba AHS Indians.
“We turned it over three times in the first half and struggled with tackling. Those two aren’t a good mix,” Amory coach Allen Glenn said. “All in all, you try to take away some positive out a negative. Charleston French had a good night running the ball for us.”
The Indians got the ball first to open the game and took advantage of back to back offside penalties to get into the Panther redzone. The defense held with stops by John Isaac Wallace and Drew Lockhart to set up a third and long, but the Indians’ star running back Ike Chandler scored to give the visitors an early 7-0 lead.
Braxton Griffin took the kickoff to set up the Panther offense near midfield. Penalties again killed the momentum, and a fumble was recovered by the Indians. The Panthers’ defense kept the Indians corralled, and Lockhart came up with a huge stop on fourth down to give the ball back to the home team.
Amory’s offense finally woke up late in the first quarter when Jones completed his first pass of the night, hitting Braxton Griffin for a big gain near midfield. Jarquez Ivy and Titus Irons kept the ball moving on the ground, and after an Amory timeout, a defensive pass interference penalty put the ball on the 5-yard line. Jones found Jay Hampton in the end zone to put the Panthers on the board, but a blocked extra point kept the game at 7-6.
The second quarter began with an IAHS touchdown to extend the lead. The Panthers used the run game to effect, but Jones’ pass was picked off inside the IAHS 30-yard line. Walker Maranto recorded a sack on second down, and a long bomb fell incomplete to force the punt.
The momentum was short lived after a fumble on the first play of the drive.
“I tell those guys the football is a prized possession. It’s like a million dollar diamond,” Glenn said. “You’ve got to hold on to it.”
TJ Huppert, Easton Higginbotham and Lockhart slowed down the rushing attack, but a lucky fumble recovery on third down and long extended the lead to 20-6.
Jones and the Panthers’ offense got it going again with a great catch by Griffin, along with runs by Charleston French and a big catch by Hampton to put the home team on the 24-yard line. A French run put the Panthers on the 9-yard line, but the drive stalled and Bryn Camp’s field goal attempt was blocked. The Indians took the ball 99 yards to the house to make it a 28-6 contest.
Griffin got the second half going with a good kickoff return at Amory’s 49-yard line. French’s running and a Jones pass to Griffin put the ball near the 30. A holding call moved the Panthers back, but a pass from Jones to Hampton put the home team at the IAHS 11-yard line. Jones moved the pile to the 3, then called his own number again to cut the lead to 28-12. He then took it in again to make it a two-score game.
The visitors struck again to stretch the lead to 34-14 after a blocked extra point. However, the Panthers got the entire offense working. A catch by Griffin got things started, but it nearly came apart on a fumble that the home team recovered to keep the drive alive. Jones pass to Griffin moved the sticks, and French busted off a few runs to move the offense to the 33. A catch by Will McComb moved the ball to the 16, and French and Jones’s running put the ball on the 5 to end the quarter.
An incomplete pass for Hampton started the fourth quarter, but French found the end zone. Jones kept it himself to make it a 34-22 game. A delay of game penalty slowed the visitors down, but it couldn’t stop them from stretching their lead to 40-22. Higginbotham and Shaidon McKinney came up with a big stop on the conversion attempt.
Jones, along with the tandem of French and Irons, moved the ball from their own 43 to the Indians’ 11-yard line. French scored on an 11-yard run, but Jones’ keeper was denied keeping the game at 40-28, and a quick touchdown by the Indians stretched the lead to 46-28.
French ended the game with 137 yards on 22 carries and the two touchdowns.
The Panthers try to get back in the win column next at home on Friday against Saltillo.