Panther Creek rallies back, defeats Holly Springs in Double-Overtime

Sean Crocker earned his first playoff win as Head Coach of the Catamounts, coming in a dramatic fashion against his predecessor, Wayne Bragg.

Ian Pierno, Sports Editor

14 November 2014 - The Panther Creek student section waved their Pom-Poms with passion as their Catamounts defeated Holly Springs 24-21 in 2OT.
Ian Pierno
14 November 2014 – The Panther Creek student section waved their Pom-Poms with passion as their Catamounts defeated Holly Springs 24-21 in 2OT.

CARY, NC – The temperature was on the verge of freezing during the second overtime period when senior Phillip Stone chipped in a 21-yard field goal attempt to put the Catamounts up 24-21, giving them their first lead of the game. It was then that all eyes turned to the renowned “Blue Swarm” defense, keeping the Golden Hawks out of the endzone would be the only way to keep their season alive. Consecutive runs from star runningback Nehemiah Harris gave Holly Springs fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line. Holly Springs Head Coach Wayne Bragg decided to roll the dice and leave the offense on the field. Harris took the hand-off from Justin Armwood before disappearing into a swarm of Columbia Blue jerseys at the line of scrimmage. The final whistle blew, and the Catamounts rejoiced, knowing they had not only won their first playoff game since 2010, but also another chance to knock-off Highway 55 rival, the Green Hope Falcons.

Ryan Callahan lead the way for Catamounts, recording 19-rush yards, a receiving touchdown, ten tackles, a sack, a blocked field-goal, a 39-yard punt return, and an interception. Sophomore receiver Justin Smalls played the best statistical game of his high school career, catching seven passes for 134-yards and two touchdowns.

Senior defensive end Da’shaquan Campbell lead the team in tackles with 10.5. “I realized that it could’ve been my last football game in high school ever,” he said. “I felt like I owed it to the rest of the seniors to go all out.”

The game was a match-up of the SWAC’s top two defenses, and they showed to be as good as advertised, with the halftime score standing at 0-0. However, the second half proved to be a different story. On their first offensive possession of the third quarter, Holly Springs made the game’s first mark on the scoreboard following a 63-yard catch-and-run from runningback Trey Staten. Five minutes later, Nehemiah Harris ran up the middle for an 11-yard score to double his squad’s lead to 14-0. Harris would finish with 101 rushing yards on the night.

For Panther Creek, the transition from the first-half to the third quarter was bad-to-ugly. The Catamounts turned the ball over on all three of their possessions, and Holly Springs was set to begin the fourth quarter at the Panther Creek 22-yard line following a long interception return. The game’s outlook was beginning to look dim.

Four plays later, the Catamount defense made a play that changed not only the course of the game, but possibly the postseason, as Callahan blocked Josh Howard’s 31-yard field goal attempt that would’ve put the Hawks up three scores with under ten minutes to play. It was then that the momentum began to shift. “Once the fourth quarter wrapped around and we were down 14-to-nothing, I looked around, and nobody was giving up,” said Callahan. “That’s just how it’s done, we’re not finished yet, and that’s a quote we live by.”

After throwing three interceptions in the third quarter, senior quarterback Brenden Magner regained his swagger in the fourth. The next play proceeding the blocked field goal, Magner stood in the pocket with poise, effortlessly hitting Smalls in-stride for a 75-yard touchdown, narrowing the Holly Springs lead to 14-7 with just over nine minutes to play.

14 November 2014 - The temperature (celcius) was only one degree higher than the two team's combined score at halftime.
Ian Pierno
14 November 2014 – The temperature (celcius) was only one degree higher than the two team’s combined score at halftime.

After forcing a Holly Springs punt, Magner lead the Catamounts on a 14-play, 64-yard drive capped off by a one-yard pass to Callahan (first career receiving score) to tie the game up at 14-14 with 3:05 remaining in regulation. Holly Springs, stunned by the speed and magnitude in which they gave up their lead, were unable to strike back before the end of the second half.

Quarterback Justin Armwood ran in a one-yard score for Holly Springs to open of the first overtime period, and Magner responded with a 10-yard strike to Smalls to knot the game up at 21-21. “We didn’t want a recap of what happened to last year’s seniors,” said Smalls. Minutes later, senior Phillip Stone would hit the most important kick of his football career.

Panther Creek will travel for Green Hope for the second time in fourteen days on Friday (11/21) for the most anticipated game of the two rival’s history. Green Hope was able to squeak out a 17-10 in their last meeting following a stellar defensive performance in the first half. “We’re gonna beat Green Hope, I’ll put that on my name,” said Callahan.

Kick-off will be at 7:30pm.