Smiths Station entered Friday’s road game at Stanhope Elmore with the hopes of ending the season on a high note. Thanks to a ball-hawking defense and a good game from running back Jordan Jones, the Panthers headed back home with plenty to celebrate.
The Panthers fended off a tough Mustangs’ team as the defense and special teams forced five turnovers and Jones scored two rushing touchdowns to help Smiths Station win 27-20. The victory ends the Panthers’ season with a 4-6 record and snaps a three-game losing streak down the stretch of the regular season.
“Our kids worked really hard all week and prepared. They didn’t cash it in; they enjoyed the week,” Smiths Station head coach Mike Glisson said over the phone after the win. “Our coaches did a great job of preparing them, making it fun for them and keeping them engaged. A lot of times you get to that last week, and if it’s been a tough year the kids will shut it down on you. Our kids didn’t do that. They kept working and had a great week of practice.
“It’s always tough when you play [Stanhope], but our kids played really well.”
After Stanhope’s Antonio Trone started the scoring with a four-yard rushing touchdown midway through the first quarter, Jones answered with a short rushing touchdown of its own to tie the game 6-6. The Mustangs answered with just under four minutes to go in the second quarter on a long touchdown pass before wide receiver Devyn Pearman broke loose on a 54-yard run down to the Mustangs’ 1-yard line a few minutes later.
Smiths Station quarterback Corey Minton finished the job on the next play, pushing his way into the end zone on a quarterback sneak to tie the game 13-13 with 2:43 to go until halftime.
The Panthers took advantage of a late possession before halftime and found the end zone again to go into the locker room with a 19-13 advantage.
As well as the first half went for Smiths Station, the situation only got better to open the third quarter.
A miscommunication among the Stanhope return men led to a fumble and a short field for the Panthers’ offense. Jones made the most of the opportunity by scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run shortly thereafter to push the Panthers to a 14-point lead with 10:08 to go in the third.
Glisson praised his team for the way they were opportunistic on defense and on special teams against the Mustangs.
“It’s big,” Glisson said. “The turnovers helped us and gave us some short fields. It put us in some great situations. We capitalized on them. We got the lead in the second half by a couple of scores and ran the ball and used the clock to our advantage.”
The Panthers ‘defense held firm from there, forcing one more turnover and keeping a dangerous Mustangs’ offense at bay for the majority of the second half. Stanhope managed one more passing touchdown with under two minutes to go in the fourth, but Smiths Station recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock to secure the victory.
For Glisson, the Panthers’ fight despite missing out on the playoffs was a great sign as his rebuild of the program continues at the close of his third season.
“I think it just shows we’re doing things the right way and things are turning in the right way. We’ve just got to figure out ways to win more games,” Glisson said. “We’re going to keep doing that. We’re going to keep plugging along. We’ll give them about a week off, then we’re going to get back in the weights hard and try to get bigger, faster and stronger next year.”