SMITHS STATION — The Eufaula Tigers marched into Smiths Station Friday night and unleashed an aerial assault on the Panthers, racking up 38 points in the first-half before going on to win the game 41-14.
Tiger quarterback Hess Horne’s arm gave their offense some much needed versatility against a Smiths Station defense seeking to finish the season on a high note. Horne lit up the scoreboard with four touchdown passes and nearly 300 yards passing — and that was just in the first half.
Horne consistently found soft spots in the Panther coverage, tossing touchdowns of 36, 25, 18 and 22 yards respectively — each to a different receiver.
The Panthers directed the majority of their defensive attention to loading the box and trying to force the Tigers to retreat to the passing game in order to move the ball, a philosophy that proved to get the better of them time and again in the first half. By the time the Panthers’ secondary got a hold of the Tigers offense, the game was already well out of hand.
Smiths Station finished the game on a high note, however, as junior quarterback Jacob Blackmon and senior running back LC Harris both found pay dirt within the last 10 minutes of the game.
“We started bad and just didn’t finish,” said Panthers head coach Mike Glisson of his team’s performance.
Glisson, in his second year of coaching the Panthers, preached hard work and dedication to his players this week. After starting the season 2-0, the Panthers finished the season on an eight-game losing streak, making for a tough end for the 26 seniors that said goodbye to Panther Stadium.
Those 26 seniors, led by long-time producers like LC Harris and Kobe Collins will be missed, but look forward with optimism to the players left in their wake. Jacob Blackmon, a junior, took the reins of the offense last week and finished the season with four touchdowns in the past two games. On the defensive side of the ball, another junior, Jordan Jones has spearheaded the Panther defense all season.
Despite the late season production from players like Blackmon and Jones, the Panthers still didn’t see the results in the win column. All week the motivation for the team was to send the seniors out with a win. Most would see this as a reason for the team to hang their collective head, but not Glisson.
Glisson didn’t see the 27-point deficit left on the scoreboard as a reason for frustration with the state of his football program, but instead as a vital motivation heading into the offseason.
“Using this season as motivation for the team in the offseason will make us better,” Glisson said. “We will build this program into something this community can be proud of.”
To Glisson, an eight-game losing streak doesn’t define the program, but instead he finds value in the culture that’s developed within the locker room and in the community.
“We’ve got some good things going. I’m more determined today to make sure this program gets where it needs to be than I was at this time last year.”
Time will tell for the Panthers, as their season came to a close on Friday night.
Eufaula heads into the class 6A playoffs with an impressive win under its belt and seeks to go deeper this year, as this is its second year in a row making the playoffs.
Eufaula 41, Smiths Station 14
E 17 21 3 0 — 41
SS 0 0 0 14 — 14
E — Hess Horne touchdown pass to Devin Fuller 36 yards, (PAT GOOD) 7:58
E — H. Horne touchdown pass to Jay Townsend 25 yards, ( PAT GOOD) 4:28
E — 30-yard FG attempt by D. Wingate GOOD 0:49
E — H. Horne touchdown pass to Rodarious Thomas 18 yards (PAT GOOD) 10:29
E — SSHS QB Jacob Blackmon pass intercepted by EHS CB Quaa Lynn returned 51 yards for touchdown, ( PAT GOOD) 8:32
E — H. Horne touchdown pass to Emmanuel Stevenson 22 yards, ( PAT GOOD) 0:57
E — FG Attempt by D. Wingate GOOD, 9:10
SS — J. Blackmon 2-yard touchdown run, ( PAT GOOD), 8:00
SS — LC Harris 1-yard touchdown run, ( PAT GOOD) 3:14