“It is a great win for us, it is a great win for our program,” Huntsville head coach Anthony Sharp said. “ I am awful proud of our guys for showing a lot of character. We fought through a lot of adversity during the first half. We could have easily laid down, but we had some step up that haven’t been in that situation. I am super proud of them.
It proved to be a tale of two halves for Pell City. The Panthers had a 21-10 lead in the first half, but they weren’t able to take advantage of opportunities in the second half ,which was to the dismay of first year head coach Brooks Dampeer.
“I am disappointed we didn’t capitalize on the opportunities that we had,” Dampeer said. “Offensively, we jumped off sides multiple times. Defensively, we didn’t stop them. The quarterback ran it down our mouth. They had some guys banged up and it didn’t affect them.”
The Panthers (4-3,3-2) didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard in the first quarter. On the first play of the game Jackson Williamson hooked up on a 10 yard slant, Cody Roberts did the rest as he raced 55 yards to the end zone. The PAT was good to make it 7-0.
The Crimson Panthers got good field possession off a Pell City fumble at their 19 yard line. Deonta Moore scored a few plays later to tie the game at 7-7 with 3:37 left in the first quarter.
Ira Burch led Pell City down the field for a touchdown on their next drive. The senior playmaker had runs of 17 yards and 23 yards to get down to the Huntsville 15 yard line. A personal foul on the Crimson Panthers on a Damuarian Wills run gave the Panthers the football at the 8 yard line. Burch had a 5 yard run to set up first and goal at the 3 yard line. Williamson did the rest as he called his own number for the touchdown. The point after was good to increase their lead to 14-7 with 1:37 left in the game.
Huntsville responded with a scoring drive on their next possession. On the drive Garrett Brown was hurt as he went up to attempt a catch, Pell City’s Jeral Shepard hit his legs which caused the receiver to land awkwardly. He stayed down for 20 minutes before being carted off the field. Both teams met on the field and prayed together for Brown. The delay lasted for 30 minutes. Late in the game it was announced that Brown had a concussion, but he was able to walk out the hospital under his own power.
When play resumed Huntsville had the ball at the Pell City 6 yard line. Hicklen was stopped short which forced the Crimson Panthers to go for the field goal. Nicholas Carden drained a 22 yard field goal to make it 14-10 with 8:21 left in the first half.
After a touchback, Pell City took over at their 20 yard line. On the first play of the drive, Burch went around left end and sprinted down the left side line untouched for an 80 yard touchdown to make it 21-10 with 8:08 left in the half.
Huntsville answered with an 80 yard drive of their own. On the first play of the drive, Hicklen went 62 yards on a quarterback keeper down to the Pell City 18 yard line. After back to back negative plays forced the Crimson Panthers back Hicklen found Kenneth Constan for a 15 yard gain down to the Pell City 12 yard line. After Moore picked up the first down on a 6-yard run, Hicklen capped off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run to cut the Pell City lead down to 21-17 with 6:01 left in the first half.
Huntsville’s offense picked up where they left off to start the third quarter. Hicklen had runs for 11 yards apiece on the drive. Hicklen led the Crimson Panthers to the redzone, but he was picked off by Casey Bishop, who returned the ball the Huntsville 47 yard line.
Burch led the Panthers down the field again. He had runs 13, 25 and 6 yards on the first three plays of the drive to set up first in goal from the 6 yard line. A collection of negative plays ended Pell City hopes of reaching pay dirt. Ryan Curran connected on a 27 yard field goal to put Pell City ahead 24-17.
Hicklen led Huntsville to 21 unanswered points in the second half. The senior signal caller led his team on a 15 play, 80 yard drive for a touchdown. Fredrick Carodine capped off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 24-24 with 10:45 left in the game.
Huntsville forced Pell City to a three and out on their next possession.
The Panthers’ defense didn’t have an answer for Hicklen. On third down and 15 from the Pell City 48 yard line, he threw a strike in between two Pell City defenders to Justin Jones for a 24 yard gain. Pell City made three straight stops of defense, which forced Carden to take and make a 44 yard field goal to give Huntsville a 27-24 lead with 5:43 left in the game.
After forcing another Pell City three and out, Hicklen capped off a 31 yard drive with a 3 yard touchdown to make 33-24.
He is a winner,” Sharpe said. “He is going to make great plays for us and we just come to expect that from him. He is an outstanding ball player.”
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