The Cougars traveled down I-75 to take on the powerful Panthers of Powell on Friday evening. The scored ended up being one sided but the game never felt as out of hand as the score reflected. This was due in part to the ability of the Cougar offense to move the ball vs the extremely talented and athletic Panther defense.
The game started out in typical fashion for the #2 ranked Panthers, they managed to get a fast touchdown on the board for a 7-0 lead.
The next Panther possession saw them have a nice punt return that moved them to midfield. The Cougar defense played well enough to force several 3rd downs on the drive but Powell was able to convert them and get the ball into the endzone once more late in the 1st quarter.
The Cougars mounted a nice drive of their own with Hunter White hitting key throws to Peyton Ferguson and MaKyle Shepherd, mixed with Allen on the ground. At the Panther 14 White spotted Shepherd a few yards deep in the endzone and made the throw through several Powell defenders, Shepherd came up with the ball and six points. The Cougars were without place kicker Thomas Johnson, so Latham Carr sailed it through the uprights and it was 14-7 with just over nine minutes remaining in the second and the game felt very competitive.
After the kickoff Powell began another drive. Once more the Cougars made them face several 3rd downs but couldn’t get them off the field. The Panthers scored on a 20 yard touchdown pass, making it 21-7.
The Cougar offense began another long drive on their next possession. White was accurate and steady hitting Shepherd, Shanks and Ferguson, while C.J. Allen picked up positive yardage on the ground. It looked like the Cougars had a good shot at only being down a score as the half approached. The Cougars had possession of the football for around four minutes when they faced 4th down deep in Panther territory. The Powell defense made a great play breaking up the White pass and the offense took the field.
Unfortunately the Cougars could not get the stop and the Panthers went up 28-7. There it would stay til the half.
In the 3rd quarter the Cougars had a quick defensive stand and forced Powell to punt. Disaster struck when a jarring hit by the Panthers forced a fumbled punt. This took positive Cougar momentum and switched it to Powell. The Panthers cashed in the fumble for a touchdown and it was 35-7. The game felt much closer, the pass break up in the 2nd by the Powell defense and the special teams turnover and score was a possible 14 point swing, the game felt more like 28-14 than 35-7 but such is football.
That feeling became amplified on the next Cougar possession. White began to fire passes to Mason Shanks and the duo made the Powell defense bend. The Cougars flew into Panther territory after a long gainer over the middle and another Shanks catch on the left side. C.J. Allen was able to grind through Powell defenders and finally he rumbled into the endzone in the Cougar heavy package. The xp failed and it was 35-13 in a game that felt so close to 28-20.
The rest of the way was much the same. The Panthers managed to score twice more and the Cougars were able to moved the ball some but never get back to the endzone.
The game ended at 48-13 but seemed closer. The Cougar offensive line improved greatly after having multiple costly penalties vs Karns last week. The entire team only had two. The players fought hard the entire game. The Panthers are a better team than Oak Ridge but this game didn’t feel nearly as one sided as that one. The Cougars have improved quite a bit since that game. The schedule, unfortunately, remains quite challenging to close the season. After the bye the Cougars travel to Fulton, then close at home with Clinton and #1 in the state, West High.