The 2019 high school football season in Batesburg-Leesville came to a close Friday night as the Panthers fell in the second round of the Class AA playoffs at Southside Christian 23-7.
The Panthers finished the season 7-5 overall while Southside Christian improved to 11-1 and will host Saluda in the third round.
The Panthers led most statistical categories on the night but ended up unable to score on three of four drives deep into Sabre territory on a chilly night (temperatures in the 40s) with a light rain falling throughout the contest.
The B-L defense opened the game by forcing the Sabres to go three and out on their opening possession. The B-L offense started nearly as well as they mounted a nice drive into Sabre territory. Marvin Gantt ran well early with three carries on the first four plays totaling 34 yards.
The Panthers would reach the 25-yard line but an illegal procedure penalty pushed them back, and eventually the Panthers were faced with fourth down and 8 at the 23. Quarterback Tre Robinson slipped on the wet field as he tried to evade a defender, and the Sabres took over on downs.
The Sabres would then mount one of their best drives of the night as they went 67 yards in six plays with their North-South All-Star running back Malory Pinkney scoring on a 30-yard run down the home sideline. Jahmad Barr-Williams would block the extra point, but the Sabres led 6-0 with 2:42 to play in the first quarter.
After the teams exchanged punts, B-L took over at their own 13-yard line. The Panthers would then march down the field. With running from Gantt and Amah-Dre Leapahrt and a few Robinson passes, the Panthers went 87 yards in 18 plays with Gantt scoring on a 3-yard run up the middle. Jackson Lorick’s extra point made it 7-6 with three minutes remaining in the half.
Southside Christian would then attempt to go deep on the Panthers to score before the half, and Shauntrel Hendrix came up big breaking up a pass before intercepting a third down pass at the B-L 33 with 2:04 to play.
The Panthers would then resume the march. Gantt broke off runs of 24 and 15 yards to start the drive, and Robinson connected with Hendrix for 14 yards to the Sabres’ 13. A costly holding penalty on second down pushed the ball back to the 17, and eventually the Panthers settled for a 29-yard field goal try from the right hash mark. However, Lorick’s kick was wide right with 12.5 seconds to play in the half, and at the half B-L led 7-6.
B-L received the opening kickoff of the second half and for a third straight drive moved the ball well. Gantt was too much for the Sabres to handle in the open field as he had six carries for 39 yards as B-L moved down the field. An interesting series of plays during the drive saw B-L facing second down and 26 after a negative yardage play and a penalty. Robinson threw a long pass down the home sideline to Lorick, and he was ruled out of bounds while making the catch. Meanwhile the chain crew sprinted downfield. They were stopped and sent back but lined up incorrectly, giving B-L third down and 17 after the snafu.
Southside Christian’s coach called timeout to try and correct the error, but the officials discussed it and stuck with their incorrect placement. The point was moot as Robinson connected with senior wide receiver Keshoun Williams on the next play for 39 yards to the Sabres’ 24. B-L would reach the 9-yard line and elected to go for it on fourth and 9, but Robinson was sacked as the defender blitzed and wasn’t blocked.
Southside Christian’s defense was keeping them in the game as they went with the “bend but don’t break” policy. Despite three missed scoring opportunities on the night, the Panthers still led 7-6 midway through the third quarter.
The Sabres would then mount a nice drive behind the running and passing of their freshman back-up quarterback Jacory Martin. Martin was 3-for-3 passing for 44 yards on the drive and also ran for 21 yards to set up a 26-yard field goal from Michael Long with 1:41 to play. That made it 9-7 Southside Christian.
The ensuing kickoff sailed into the end zone and B-L started on the 20. After a 1-yard run by
Gantt and an incompletion, Robinson rolled to his right. As he was running out of room he attempted a pass toward the first down marker, but Charlie Harof stepped in front of the pass and sprinted 30 yards with the interception to give the Sabres a huge touchdown. The extra point made it 16-7 with 2.4 seconds to play in the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Sabres kicked it short and Williams fielded the kick at the 20-yard line and prepared to sprint upfield only to have the play blown dead. The officials stated that a fair catch had been called (by someone, not Williams) and the drive started at the 20. The Panthers would go three and out. The defense would then force a Sabre three and out, but the Panther offense couldn’t get on track as they were pinned deep and had a third straight three and out.
The Sabres would then take over with 7:14 to play in the game at the B-L 48 after the 41 yards punt form Cade Bouknight. The Sabres would then march down the field behind the running of Martin and Pinkney, with the senior tailback scoring on a 3-yard run with 1:55 to play to put the game out of reach. The extra point made it 23-7.
B-L would pick up another first down on an 18-yard pass to Hendrix but would eventually turn the ball over on downs with .8 seconds to play in the game as Southside Christian won. B-L tallied 305 yards of offense to just 208 for the Sabres, but it wasn’t enough as the Sabres put points on the board when they moved the ball and the Panthers couldn’t finish their scoring opportunities.
Story by Jay Hendrix / Published November 21, 2019