SARDIS – After falling down midway through the fourth quarter, a late surge helped the Amory Panthers grab a 29-16 win over North Panola, marking their first trip to the state championship game in 19 years.
Amory (10-3) will play Jefferson Davis County at 11 a.m. at Southern Miss next Friday for the Class 3A state title.
“I’m so proud of our kids, this program and the coaches,” Amory coach Brooks Dampeer said. “We continued to put our heads down, work hard and do all the little things. Our defense played outstanding, and those two takeaways that we had in the fourth quarter were game changers.”
After forcing a turnover on downs, North Panola struck first with a 65-yard pass from Quardeqarious Walls to Jalen Rudd, giving the Cougars an 8-0 lead after the two-point conversion.
The Panthers bounced back and cut the lead down to one point on a three-yard touchdown run by Jatarian Ware heading into the second quarter.
Midway through the third quarter, the Panthers took the lead on a 27-yard touchdown run by Cameron Haynes, putting them up 14-8.
In the fourth quarter, North Panola regained its lead on a five-yard touchdown run by Walls after a long Cougar drive, giving them a 16-14 lead with 7:45 left in the game.
With 4:50 left in the game, Allen Dobbs came away with an interception for the Panthers’ defense on third down. This defensive stop set up a four-yard touchdown run by Ware to give the Panthers a 22-16 lead with 1:42 left in the fourth.
Amory capped off its victory on an interception by Elijah Spratt that was returned 20 yards for a touchdown with 18 seconds left.
“Nobody thought we were going to make it this far,” Amory linebacker TJ Huppert said. “We were the underdogs, but when it came down to it, we were more physical than everybody else, and we won.”
Turning Point: Allen Dobbs got an interception with 4:50 left in the game, setting up a rushing touchdown by Jatarian Ware.
Point Man: Ware had a pair of touchdowns on a combined 80 yards of offense.
Talking Point: “We’ve got one more week of practice, so we’ve got to make it count. We’ll be as schematically ready as possible, and we’ll play as hard as we can to get the win.” - Amory coach Brooks Dampeer
• This is the Panthers’ first win at in the North finals since 2002.
• Amory’s defense has allowed two touchdowns or fewer in all four playoff wins.
• Amory running back Charleston French finished with a little over 100 yards on 11 carries.