August 23, 2009 12:32:00 AM
AMORY -- All things being equal, execution, effort, and experience more times than not will decide the outcome of a football game.
That was the case here Friday night, as the Nettleton Tigers capitalized on a pair of fourth-quarter turnovers to grab a 19-15 non-division victory against the Amory Panthers.
In post-game comments, Nettleton''s and Amory''s coaches said the effort was there from the teams, and they also agreed experience (or a lack thereof) on the offensive units played a key role in the low-scoring affair.
In the end, however, execution made the difference for Nettleton, although both coaches said their teams made far too many mistakes for either one to claim a victory.
"Our execution was spotty throughout the game, but we were fortunate enough to make a play there at the end to pull it out," Nettleton coach Jack Clark.
Said Amory coach Pat Byrd, "I think the effort was there for both teams. There was a basket full of mistakes made by both teams, but we just happened to make the last one."
Leading 15-12 thanks to two sterling second-half defensive plays, the Panthers suffered a meltdown with less than four minutes remaining on two crucial turnovers to set up Nettleton''s game-winning touchdown toss from senior quarterback Anthony Franklin to sophomore Odarius Lowe.
"This is Franklin''s second year as a starter, and he''s a senior who has shown a great deal of improvement from last season," Clark said. "Odarius is an outstanding sophomore who is a special young man," he said. "Together, they provided the spark for our offense tonight."
Down 15-12 after a 28-yard interception return by Amory defensive back Jonothan Randle late in the third quarter followed by a quarterback sack by defensive linemen Evan Holcomb and Jenesis Lydia in the end zone for a safety with just over eight minutes left in the fourth period, Nettleton took advantage of two crucial turnovers to claim the come-from-behind win.
Clinging to a slim three-point lead, the Amory defense forced a Nettleton punt to take possession with less than five minutes left in the game. Two running plays netted six yards, but on a third-and-4 from its 36, Amory turned the ball over on a fumble, the first of two critical turnovers.
Seconds later, Franklin hooked up with Lowe on a 30-yard touchdown strike. Joe Sullivan added the point after to turn what had appeared to be a disappointing defeat into a victory.
"Anthony (Franklin) showed me a lot there," Clark said. "He was upset with himself after the interception return for a touchdown and then with the safety, but he came back and made the big play with Odarius when it really counted."
The Panthers, however, weren''t about to concede anything. Starting on his 36 with 3:08 left, Amory quarterback Forest Williams found wide receiver Josh Andress for 21 yards and then again for 11, followed by an 18-yard completion to Reggie Griffin, to give the Panthers a first down at the Tiger 14.
Two 4-yard runs by Joreel Freeman sandwiched around an incomplete pass moved the ball to the six to set up a fourth-and-2 with 1:19 remaining.
Unfortunately, Murphy''s Law quickly struck a cruel blow to Amory''s hopes, as the ensuing snap from center hit the Panthers'' man in motion and rolled out of bounds at the 14 to turn the ball back over to Nettleton with 1:14 left.
"We sent in a run-pass option from the shotgun, but our center snapped it a little too quickly," Byrd said. "In a time like that, you''ve got to make the play. It''s just one of those things we have to work on."
In addition to the first-game mistakes, missed assignments and turnovers, Amory''s cause wasn''t helped by the absence of two-way starting lineman Nathan Kendrick, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior who was hospitalized earlier in the day with a viral infection.
"Not having him available was huge," Byrd said. "Nathan is our best offensive lineman and his absence really hurt our inside running game."
The Panthers drew first blood in the neighborhood squabble when Williams found Andress wide open down the visitor''s side for a 12-yard touchdown toss with just seconds left in the first quarter.
The Tigers tied the game at 6-all after Lowe turned in a spectacular 62-yard dash after latching on to a Franklin pass two minutes later and then took a12-6 lead with 4:59 left in the half on a 6-yard run by Corbin White.
Amory took the lead on Randle''s interception return with 5:39 left in the third period. It added a safety at the 8:12 mark in the fourth quarter to set up the Tigers'' game-winning toss-catch from Franklin to Lowe.