By Luke Brantley
HACKLEBURG — The Hackleburg Panthers hosted the Marion County Red Raiders in the first round of the state playoffs on Thursday, Nov. 9.
The ball changed hands a few times in the opening minutes from turnovers and fumbles, before the Panthers ultimately managed to hold on and scored the first touchdown of the game.
Davin Dulaney scored the touchdown on a nine yard run with 4:54 left in the first quarter. The kick for the point after by Carson Swinney was good, and the Panthers were leading 7-0.
The Raiders made steady progress down the field after the kickoff, making it all the way to the Panthers’ 30-yard line before an interception by Hackleburg’s Jaquan Reeder put the Panthers back in charge.
The Panthers started first and fifteen from their own 23 after a false start, but Dulaney broke through the line and outran the Raiders’ defense to the end zone on an 83 yard run for his second touchdown on the night with only 10 seconds remaining in the first.
The kick after by Swinney was good, and the Panthers were leading 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
After the kickoff, the Raiders made another strong push for the Panther end zone. Ty Madison and Dalyce Floyd made several key plays to keep the chains moving, along with a few keeps from Joe Aldridge.
The Raiders were almost in trouble with a fourth and 10 dilemma, but a pass to Jace Young kept them in the fight a little longer.
The Panthers’ defense held the Raiders to around the 10-yard line, when another interception by Reeder shut down their drive with a few minutes to go before halftime.
The Panthers advanced steadily on their next possession and scored once more with a 29-yard run and touchdown by Reeder and a good PAT by Swinney to go ahead 21-0 with a little over 30-seconds remaining in the half.
The Panthers kicked off, but a series of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called on the Raiders after the return and a lengthy discussion by officials and coaches, saw them starting deep within their own territory on the eight-yard line.
The Raiders opted to take a knee to send the game into halftime.
Marion County kicked off to open the second half, and the Panthers once again maintained a steady pace down the field.
With 10:05 remaining in the third quarter, quarterback Blaise Vickery kept the ball and scored a touchdown run of 13 yards to put the Panthers ahead 28-0 with the point after.
The Raiders would once again see their next possession come to an end; this time due to an interception by Hackleburg’s Cameron Ingram. That play also resulted in multiple flags for personal fouls on both teams.
When the penalties were finally sorted out, the Panthers started first and 10 on the Raider 32-yard line. Swinney gained a few yards on first down, but a second-down pass fell incomplete.
On third down, Vickery found an opening up the middle and broke through the gap to score on a 29 yard run with 6:42 remaining in the third quarter. The kick was no good, but the Panthers were still leading 34-0.
The Panthers kicked off, and the Raiders started to make steady gains as the clock ticked down on the third quarter.
The Raiders closed in all the way to the Panthers’ 16-yard line. Aldridge completed a pass to Madison in the end zone, followed by a two-point conversion with a minute remaining to put the Raiders on the scoreboard 34-8.
The Panthers had control of the ball as the game entered the fourth quarter. They opened the final quarter second and 10 on their own 46-yard line.
Vickery kept the ball and rushed for the first down up to the Raiders’ 43-yard line. Edge Weeks got the ball on the next play and broke away from the pack to score a 43 yard touchdown run with 11:12 left in the game.
The kick was blocked, but the Panthers still held a 40-8 lead.
The Raiders would see another possession ended by an interception made by Reeder with 7:45 to go.
Swinney, Vickery and Weeks kept the Panthers moving and the clock running for several minutes, before ending up third and goal within the five-yard line. Weeks dove into the end zone with 3:41 left in the game. With a final extra point kick, the Panthers sealed their spot in the second round of the playoffs with a 47-8 victory over the Raiders.
The Raiders ended their season with an overall record of 5-6, and a region record of 5-3.
See complete story in the Journal Record.