Tiftarea Academy Panthers suffered a defeat Friday, Oct. 4, when the team played the Valwood School Valiants. The game ended with the Panthers down a touchdown, failing to score the final drive in the fourth quarter. The final score was 21-14, Valiants’ victory, leaving the Panthers season record 4-1. Despite being defeated, the Panthers played strong and didn’t give the Valiants an easy win. The Panthers realized on the first series after kickoff that the Valiants were ready to capitalize on every mistake the Panthers made.
Starting quarterback Logan Crosson struggled to do much in the first series, eventually running out of downs and sending Jayk Sailer to the field to punt the ball away. The Valiants used this opportunity to send Blane Cooper to an endzone carry for a touchdown. Crosson had a second chance and lined up for a deep pass to the endzone with open receivers. Crosson made a throwing motion but let the ball slip from his hands. The Valiants’ defense ran the fumble for a quick second touchdown after kicking the ball to the Panthers.
The third kickoff gave the Panthers another possession, however, more disappointment filled the team when a pass by Crosson was picked off by Valiant cornerback, Michael Tucker. When the offense lost the ball after the third chance, the Panthers defense went back to the field with vengeance. The Valiants attempted to carry the ball down the field as they had before, however, starting nose guard Jackson Hoover showed his patience was running thin. The running back was immediately stopped in his tracks after gaining one yard.
Fired up by the defensive play from his teammate, Sailer watched Valiants quarterback Pete Hogan drop back in the pocket for a pass. Sailer intercepted the ball and ran it to the 43-yard line. Crosson went back to the field ready to demand respect and earn his redemption. Hesitant to get back into a passing formation, Crosson started handing the ball off to running backs Adam Mckinny and Mark Coley. For the first time all night, the Panthers drove up the field successfully and inched closer to their first touchdown.
The first quarter ended and after switching sides, Crosson continued moving the ball slowly up the field until finally, getting the team’s first touchdown. Sailer kicked a field goal and the score went to 14-7 and stayed like that until the first half ended. The second half started with the Panthers serving up some much-needed medicine to the Valiants. After receiving the kickoff, the Valiants attempted to pass the ball for a better field position. Sailer met the quarterback in the backfield and intercepted the ball. Crosson tried to take advantage of the turnover but once again found his offense struggling. The Valiants took the ball back after the Panthers failed to gain first down. This led to the third and final Valiant’s touchdown of the night.
McKinney didn’t let the game end without the Valwood crowd hearing his name. He answered the call from Panthers fans for another touchdown with just over six minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Panthers tried the last minute to gain another touchdown and go into over-time. Penalties and flags played a huge role in the ultimate defeat of the Panthers. The next time Tiftarea Panthers play will be Oct. 18, in Newnan, Georgia at 7:30 p.m. against Heritage School.