Panthers fight back to KO Kosciusko

By TAYLOR HAWKINS,

After a relatively disappointing 2018 season, the Yazoo County Panthers seemed to have righted the ship with a 20-16 comeback win in the final 20 seconds of the game over Kosciusko on Thursday night in the season opener.

The win has the Panthers sitting 1-0, back to undefeated.

Yazoo County head football coach Robert Dobbs was hesitant to compare his team this year against where they were last year because the circumstances were different than what they faced.

But his pride in what they were able to accomplish was evident.

“Last year we definitely had the players capable of coming back to win that game, but it’s hard to answer the question of if we would have won this game a year ago,” Dobbs said. “It’s hard to say because we didn’t find ourselves in a situation where we were down against them. This was the first year to play them. We knew they would be coached up. We knew they were good on offense. We knew they were an attacking defense. I’m proud of how we continued to fight to overcome in this game.”

Dobbs knew from scouting Kosciusko that they would be a difficult opponent.

He knew they would be sound offensively and aggressive defensively.

Combined with the nerves that come with a season-opener, it would be a difficult game.

Dobbs knew it would be, and it came to fruition.

“That proved to be true,” Dobbs said. “They came out in things we hadn’t seen before. We had to make some adjustments at half. It was first game jitters. We made some mistakes. We were really resilient in the second half.”

Kosciusko kicked off the scoring in the first quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run to cap off a drive, making it a 7-0 game.

The Whippets added to their lead just a few minutes later with a FG to bring the score to 10-0.

Things weren’t looking so hot for the Panthers.

Then Kobe Fisher turned the tide of the game with a 5-yard touchdown run. After a successful 2-point conversion attempt, the Panther had cut the lead to 10-8.

But the Whippets were too strong to go away quietly into the night, especially on their own field in the opener. They ran in another touchdown, but they missed the PAT. Still, they extended their lead to 16-8.

The Panthers needed a spark, and they needed it quickly.

They couldn’t allow themselves to get too far down too early.

Corey Rucker became that spark.

He took a punt from deep in his own territory 77 yards for a score, cutting the lead to 16-14 after a failed 2-point conversion.

After halftime, the defensive adjustments were evident. Either team was able to gain any traction, leaving the sounds of pads and helmets hitting as the dominant noises around the football complex.

In the fourth quarter, with time nearly expired, the Panthers were forced into a do-or-die situation.

Fisher lined up behind center and received the snap. He cocked back and threw the ball to Corey Rucker, who once again made a play when they needed it most, giving them Panthers a 20-16 lead with 20 seconds to play, a lead they would not lose.

Kobe Fisher ended the game with a 7-for-17 performance for 73 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed in a touchdown.

Kory Gainwell led the ground attack for the Panthers, contributing 116 yards on 12 carries. He also had three total tackles.

Corey Rucker was instant offense in the win. He caught three passes for 41 yards and a score and returned a punt 77-yards for another score. On defense, he also had a tackle and an interception.

“Corey was really big for us,” Dobbs said. “He made plays on offense, defense, and special teams. That’s the kind of play we expect out of him.”

Alphonso Ray led the Panthers with 11 total tackles (1 solo, 10 assists) in the win.

Marlon Brown had eight total tackles and a fumble recovery in the victory.

Alzavian Shelton racked up seven total tackles.

William Noel had five total tackles, while Cortavious Rodgers had four total tackles.

Despite what issues they may have had in the opener, particularly on special teams, the Panthers pieced it together and came out with a victory, the ultimate goal for the game.

“We really believed in ourselves,” Dobbs said. “I’m proud of everyone. We had some meltdowns on special teams, but we played hard and held it together.”

On Friday night, the Panthers will face off against a familiar and dangerous foe: Charleston.

Charleston is 1-1 on the year after dropping a 21-6 game to powerhouse Oxford High.

Dobbs believes this Charleston team is like so many others in the past: big, fast, and aggressive.

“I expect the same typical Charleston team. They’ll rely on speed and size. They’ll be in a 4-3, and they’ll try some interesting things against us. We know they’ll be aggressive. We just need to come back out and believe in ourselves, and we should be alright.”

Kickoff at Yazoo County is set for 7 p.m.