Crisp edges Panthers 20-18 in ASHS’ 2017 opener

Published 1:52 pm Saturday, August 26, 2017

By DONNELL SAMUEL/ATR sports correspondent

AMERICUS – The fall season set in at Alton Shell Stadium on the evening of Aug. 25 in Americus as the mighty Panthers of Americus Sumter High School hosted rival Crisp County to kick off their regular football season. After a grueling battle between the two age-old rivals, the Panthers suffered a 20-18 defeat at the hands of the Cougars.
The Panthers strapped on the helmets and took the field with an early statement as junior quarterback, Keirston Harvey, found his main target, AJ Payne, matched up against man coverage for a deep completion down the Crisp County sideline to put Americus-Sumter in the red zone for the first time in the 2017 season.
It wasn’t long after that big play that senior athlete, Kobe Lewis, found the end zone out of the wildcat formation, running over a Crisp County defender for a touchdown. Americus led 6-0 after a miscommunication on the PAT attempt.
The Cougars tried to respond with two back to back third down conversions that pushed them into Panther territory. Facing a fourth and one on the Americus-Sumter five-yard line, the Cougars went for it and were denied as senior corner back, Jaquan Searcy, led the surge to force the turnover on downs.
The Americus defense owned the momentum early and often as Christian Mable found the quarterback with a big sack for a loss of 18 yards. On the very next play, Jakhari White intercepted a deep ball to give the Panthers back possession. Things were rolling for the Americus Sumter ball club early and often in the first, but the late in the second half the road got a little bumpy.
A scuffle on the Crisp County sideline led to an unsportsmanlike penalty against the Panthers and gave Crisp County first and 10 from the ASHS 40 yard-line.
Frustration and mental lapse set in on the Americus defense as the Cougars got on the board when D.J. Smith got behind the secondary to catch a bomb, tying the game 6-6.
ASHS looked to bounce back as Harvey found Sage Finch for back to back third down completions to push the offense across midfield, but a pick six from Crisp County junior cornerback, Tubby Spivey, ended the Panther drive and led to a 13-6 Cougar halftime lead.
The Cougars attempted to put a dagger in Americus Sumter early straight out of halftime with a bomb down field. However, ASHS’ White had different plans, grabbing his second interception of the night to give the momentum back to the Panthers.
After a three and out by the offense, the ASHS defense took the field, still hungry from their last defensive possession. Searcy picked up where White left off and joined the interception party.
As often as Panthers were taking the ball away, they were giving it back to their guests as Spivey intercepted his second pass of the night and, three plays later, beat man coverage on a wheel route catch and run that set up first and goal for the Cougars
They went on to punch it in off a quarterback sneak to bring the score to 20-12.
Americus’ high defense kept the Panthers in the game, but every time the offense would begin to move the ball, the drive would be stalled by a fumble.
Americus-Sumter ended the night with four fumbles, all of which were recovered by Crisp County. Nevertheless, there still was hope.
With 1:28 left in the fourth quarter, junior receiver, Montrellis Wilson, beat man coverage with a quick slant and sprinted down the field only to be tackled inside the Panther’s thirty-yard line. ASHS continued to move the ball, but time was not on their side. On third down, Harvey threw a dart to Braelin Williams on a slant in the end zone. The ball ricocheted off Williams’ pads into the air and Sage Finch made an extravagant diving attempt to catch the ball.
On the very next play, Payne was called on to catch the fade with one on one coverage against Spivey and the six-foot receiver would answer the call for an Americus touchdown, leaving the score 20-18 with no time left in regulation.
Once again, the team looked for Payne on a two-point conversion against Spivey but this time the Crisp County corner came through with a big play for his team, just as he had done all night, to knock the ball down and win the season opener for the visitors.
Americus fell in a season-opening heartbreaker 20-18 against Crisp County.
The Panthers will be back in action next Friday night Sept. 1, hosting Dooly County at Alton Shell Stadium.