(Looking, looking, looking - Pontotoc’s Michael Penson decides to run this one vs. Clarksdale.)
By TIM TUTOR
CLARKSDALE -- In a key Region 2-4A football game last Friday night, the 4-1, 1-1 Warriors of Pontotoc High fell just short of victory in a 20-17 loss to the 3-2, 1-0 Wildcats of Clarksdale.
“There were two good football teams playing here tonight,” said Warrior head coach Dennis Robbins.
“A little here and a little there, and either team could have won the game. They just made a few more plays than we did.”
Pontotoc led 10-7 through three quarters of play before falling behind 20-10 with a little over five minutes left in the game.
But on third down and ten from their own 20-yard line, Warrior senior quarterback Michael Penson connected with senior running back Marcus Thomas for a 71-yard pass and run down to the Clarksdale 4-yard line.
Penson, on a QB keeper, found a hole up the middle on first down to put the Pontotoc boys right back in the game. With senior Robert Bass’ PAT the Warriors trailed by only three at 20-17 with 3:15 showing on the game clock.
Clarksdale, who tallied 192 yards running the ball in the game, kept the football on the ground and used up two precious minutes before sophomore defensive back Andrew Pinson stopped Wildcat fullback Jeremy Williams after a gain of only one on a third and five from the Clarksdale 41.
Workhorse Williams picked up 104 yards on 17 carries and all in the second half for the Wildcats.
After Sebaston Moton’s punt was returned 25 yards by Thomas out to the Warrior 46-yard line, the PHS boys were in good shape with one minute and forty-three seconds to either get the ball into the end zone for the win or get Robert Bass into field goal range to tie it up.
After a ten-yard grounding-the-ball penalty (that included the loss of a down) and two incomplete passes, Penson and his offense found themselves in a fourth and thirty situation with about a minute left.
Penson threw a pass straight across the left side of the field to Thomas who in turn threw to a wide open J.J. Hester down the sideline.
The pass was a bit high with a wobble on it.
Hester had to wait for the ball, and the defender had time to break up the pass.
But, pass interference was called on Clarksdale that gave the Warriors an automatic first down on their own 41-yard line with 39 seconds left.
Penson was sacked for a 7-yard loss on first down while scrambling to find an open receiver. On third and 17, Penson found Hester across the middle for 6 yards. Another block could have sprung Hester into the open.
On fourth down, Penson tried to go long to Grayson Pickett, but the pass was too long and the receiver covered well.
“They put the pressure on us. We were running around and trying to make things happen,” explained Coach Robbins.
“Sometimes things happen and sometimes they don’t. We just needed one more of those things to happen tonight, and we would have won, but it just didn’t happen for us.”
Penson, who has been putting up some big numbers passing the ball this year, accounted for all of Pontotoc’s offense Friday night throwing for 205 yards.
The Warriors first half points came on a 27-yard field goal by Bass with two minutes and twenty seconds left in the opening period to give PHS the 3-0 lead.
Clarksdale took the lead at 7-3 on a Vernell Brown 4-yard run and an Aymen Salameh extra point in the second quarter.
The Warriors regained the lead on a 9-yard pass and run from Penson to Thomas with a little over five minutes left in the half.
Robbins was not down on his team in any phase of the game.
“I think we played well. The folks on the other side of the ball had a lot to do with it.
“We had not played a team like Clarksdale before tonight. They have a great football team. They are still Clarksdale, and I think they will win a lot of football games.”
The Wildcats, which have won three 4A state titles since 1997, may be 3-2, but that includes losses to No. 2 South Panola and No. 5 Southaven.
“This was a close football game against a good football team. That’s all you can say.”
PHS will celebrate homecoming this Friday night at Warrior field while hosting the Tigers of Nettleton High School.