“He is playing a bunch of snaps both ways,” Dampeer said. “The longer the game goes the better he gets. He got a little tired at the end and we had to get him out some. The defense had a great stop down here inside the 10. They played a lot snaps on the field, they did a good job.”
Burch made several game-changing plays for the Panthers in the second half. On the opening possession of the second half, Burch picked off Robert Johnson’s pass and returned it to the Golden Gophers’ 42-yard line.
The Panthers didn’t take long to capitalize off Hueytown’s turnover. Pell City’s Jaylen Lipscomb had a 10-yard run to the 20-yard line. A horse collar penalty a few plays later gave the Panthers the football at the Hueytown 12-yard line. Burch scored on the next play from 12 yards out. Ryan Curran’s extra point attempt was good to tie the game up at 7-7 with 8:12 left in the third quarter.
“We had to have a lot of turnovers,” Burch said. “My coaches always tell me that I need to be a leader, so I stepped out today. I’ve been a leader, I got support from my team and I love my teammates.”
After being outplayed in the first half, the Panthers defense finally settled down and made plays.
Burch once again came up with a huge play for the Panthers defense in the fourth quarter. The senior recovered a fumble on third and one to give the Panthers the football at the Hueytown 38-yard line. One the first play of the drive, Burch took the hand off and sprinted through the middle of the Gophers’ defense for his second touchdown of the night. Curran’s extra point attempt was good to increase the Panthers lead to 14-7 with 11:08 left in the game.
“I am very thankful that the kids stepped up to the opportunity,” Dampeer said. ”We challenged them at halftime and the kids stepped up to the plate.”
Pell City gave Hueytown an opportunity to get back in the game. Jackson Williamson threw an interception right into the hands of Jabari Weeks.
Johnson called his own number on back-to-back plays for six yards a piece to get the Gophers a first down at the Pell City 14 yard line. Weeks bulldozed his way down to the Panthers’ 7-yard line. The Panthers defense stepped up. Pell City stopped Weeks for no gain on the second down. Joe Pitman was able to trip Johnson from behind on a quarterback keeper for no gain on third down. On fourth down, Johnson found Jonathan Patton who jumped up to make the catch in the end zone, but Lipscomb was there to force Patton out of bounds before landing in the end zone.
“I was just reading the quarterback,” Lipscomb said. “I still had my eyes on my man, so when I saw him run the out route I just tried to break on the ball as fast as I could. When they threw it to him, the pass was incomplete, we got him out of bounds and we won the game.”
The Golden Gophers controlled the tempo in the first half with their offense. Johnson and the Hueytown offense was on the field for over 10 minutes in the first quarter.
A roughing the kicker call gave Hueytown life in the first quarter. Johnson orchestrated a 71-yard drive together for a touchdown. Johnson rushed for 42 yards on the drive. Johnson connected with Michael Simpson for a 6-yard touchdown. The point after attempt was good to make it 7-0.
Hueytown controlled the second quarter also, but they were unable to produce points.
The Panthers only had three first downs in the first half and two came with less than :50 seconds left on the clock. Dampeer went to a trick play to try to get the Panthers in the end zone before halftime. Williamson threw a lateral to Burch who found Lipscomb on the right side of the field all alone for a 28- yard touchdown. The play was called back for offensive interference.