As Spring Garden coach Jason Howard said prior to Tuesday’s practice, “It’s us and Cedar Bluff. That’s always going to be a big-type game.”
The challenge for Spring Garden (3-5, 3-4) is clear. The Panthers must limit the number of big plays Cedar Bluff (3-4, 3-4) is able to generate on offense.
“They’ve just got speed,” Howard said of the Tigers. “That’s been the Achilles for us for a long time.”
Last Friday’s 42-20 loss to Donoho put an end to Spring Garden’s playoff hopes but the Panthers didn’t go down without a fight.
“I thought we played pretty well defensively even though the score wasn’t indicative of it. We held them to 14 points in the first half, played pretty well,” Howard said. “Right there toward the end was where it got away from us. We were having to do some stuff that just wasn’t us.”
Donoho got the game’s first points on a 9-yard run with five seconds remaining in the first quarter. After a bad snap, the Falcons never got an extra point kick away and led 6-0.
With 4:13 to go in the second quarter, Kyle Reece’s 48-yard run got the Panthers on the scoreboard. A missed extra point left the score 6-all.
The Falcons broke a big play, a 60-yard run, to regain the lead with 3:50 to play before halftime. A pass for a 2-point conversion made it 14-6 Donoho.
Spring Garden answered with seven seconds left in the half. Quarterback Will Ivey scored on a 4-yard run then the senior ran for another two points and a 14-all game at intermission.
In the third quarter, two rushing touchdowns, the first for 42 yards and the second for 16, and two successful kicks put Donoho ahead 28-14.
With 4:16 to play, Ben Ivey intercepted a Donoho pass and returned it 45 yard for Spring Garden’s third touchdown. An unsuccessful 2-point attempt left the Panthers trailing 28-20. At that point, Spring Garden elected to roll the dice with an onside kick.
“We scored to make it 28-20, went for the onside kick and they got it. They broke a play on us to go up 35 and then we threw a pick 6 with about a minute to go,” Howard said.
The scoring run following the onside kick covered 30 yards and came with 3:03 to play. Now down two scores, Spring Garden threw downfield from the Spring Garden 20-yard line – Howard’s “stuff that wasn’t us” – and the pass was intercepted with the return covering about 40 yards for the final touchdown.
Matt Mullinax led the Panthers on the ground with 91 yards rushing. Reece ran for 63 yards. Will Ivey netted four yards rushing and completed two passes for 29 yards. Andrew McLarty had one reception for 20 yards and Dalton Kerr one for nine yards.
On defense, Will Ivey led in tackles with nine. Ben Ivey had three tackles and Quintin Downey made two stops.
Reece had an interception and a tackle.