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Panthers claw ’Jackets, 35-0
Crandall win gives Panthers share of District 13-3A title
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer
MABANK–Mabank’s Panthers dominated the first half and cruised to a 35-0 victory over the visiting Kemp Yellowjackets Friday night.
The Panthers (6-4) needed to beat Kemp, and have Crandall defeat Kaufman to claim a share of the District 13-3A title. They were rewarded midway through the fourth quarter when the announcement came that Crandall had defeated Kaufman, 25-22.
Crandall’s win knotted the Pirates, the Lions and the Panthers each at 4-1 in District 13-3A play, forcing a tri-championship.
Mabank advanced as the district’s big-school representative to face the District 14-3A Chapel Hill Bulldogs in the first round of the Division I playoffs (see related story).
The 1-9 Yellowjackets, who were playing for little else than pride (the Panthers had already clinched a playoff berth), responded with a strong effort, even though they didn’t see much offensive success.
Friday’s win was a costly one for the Panthers, as they lost senior playmaker Mark Groom with a broken leg.
Groom, a tight end/linebacker/special teams standout, snared a pass for a 31-yard gain with just under four minutes left in the first half, but was injured when Kemp’s Eric Sparks made the tackle and both players fell to the turf.
A combination of offense and defense gave the Panthers a quick two-touchdown lead.
After forcing a three-and-out on Kemp’s first possession, the Panthers moved 61 yards in eight plays for the first score of the game.
Senior running back Chris Recio (25 carries, 168 yards, two touchdowns) highlighted the march with two 19-yard runs.
The touchdown came when sophomore quarterback Kolton Browning found Dewayne Hamilton in the right front corner of the end zone from 14 yards out.
Montana Morse added the PAT kick to give Mabank a 7-0 lead with 6:19 left in the first quarter.
Kemp’s second possession lasted just three plays.
Following a holding penalty, quarterback Michael Scruggs hit Justin Gibson for a gain of 10, but his third-down pass was picked off by Mabank’s Norman Brady, who returned the theft 41 yards up the Mabank sideline for a touchdown.
Morse’s PAT made it 14-0 with 4:15 left in the first quarter.
On their third possession, the ’Jackets looked like they might be getting something going, as new quarterback Matt Carr dashed eight yards on a scramble to set up fourth-and-two at midfield.
Kemp senior Leif Skierski (returning after missing two games with a dislocated elbow) plunged into the line, but a measurement showed Skierski’s effort came up inches short, and the Panthers took over.
The Panthers forged a 51-yard scoring march in 10 plays, again keyed by Recio, who had runs of five, 14, 10 and seven yards to set the Panthers up with a first-and-goal at the Kemp 4 on the last play of the first quarter.
It took Recio two tries to get the touchdown, which came on a toss left from four yards out. Morse’s PAT kick made it 21-0.
Kemp’s fourth possession failed to get anywhere when Carr tripped as he was coming out from center on third down, leaving the ’Jackets facing a fourth-and-eight at the Kemp 35.
Bryan Fivecoat’s punt was his best effort of the night, getting a great roll all the way down to the Panther 11.
The Panthers responded with their only three-and-out.
A procedure penalty backed Mabank up to the 6, and a second penalty moved the ball back to the 4.
Josh Carr nailed Recio on a run to the left for a loss back to the 2, and Brady punted from his end zone out to the Mabank 39.
Given their best field position of the night, the ’Jackets notched their initial first down when Skierski converted on second-and-one at the Mabank 28.
On first down, however, Matt Carr’s pass was intercepted by David Parry at the 20, and Parry returned the theft 67 yards up the Mabank sideline before getting hauled down from behind at the Kemp 13.
It took the Panthers three plays to capitalize on the turnover, as Recio pushed the pile forward from four yards out for his second touchdown.
Morse’s PAT kick made it 28-0 with 3:58 left in the first half.
The Panthers tried some trickery on the ensuing kickoff, as Jeremy Lewis perfectly executed an onside try, which Mabank recovered at the Kemp 49.
On the ensuing play, Groom was injured. Two plays later, a pass to Zach Costlow set the Panthers up with a first-and-goal at the Kemp 2, but a holding penalty forced the Panthers to try a 26-yard field goal.
Lewis’ kick was wide right, and the ’Jackets had dodged a bullet.
Mabank opened the second half with a lengthy march, moving from their 30 to the Kemp 36 in nine plays, before Browning was sacked by Travisdale Barker and fumbled.
Emory Bruner recovered Browning’s fumble at the Kemp 42, but a fumbled snap on third down forced the ’Jackets into another three-and-out on their first possession of the second half.
Mabank scored on their second possession of the half, moving 76 yards in six plays, the key play being the touchdown, a 41-yard strike from Browning to Shane Burk.
Morse’s PAT kick ended the scoring with 4:14 left in the third quarter, and the Panthers began substituting liberally. The ’Jackets, with five starters out due to injury, lost two more starters to injuries during the game.
The teams exchanged punts before the ’Jackets tried a little trickery.
Facing fourth-and-seven at their 42, the ’Jackets executed a fake punt, as the snap went to blocking back Bret Kennedy.
Kennedy’s run came up three yards short, however, and the Panthers took over at the Kemp 46, only to go three-and-out.
Brady’s punt bounced, but didn’t roll into the end zone – it died inside the Kemp 1.
Kemp responded to the adverse field position with their biggest play of the night, as Matt Carr hit Matt Brown deep for a 35-yard gain.
That was Kemp’s only first down of the second half, however, as Carr was sacked by Nick Simione, forcing another ’Jacket punt.
The Panthers then forged another lengthy march, moving from their 42 to the Kemp 14 in six plays, overcoming a holding penalty with a 21-yard pass from Browning to Mikey Shelton.
Two penalties backed the Panthers up, and on third-and-13, Browning threw a fade to Shelton. Kemp defender Matt Howard was in perfect position, however, and picked off the pass in the end zone.
Kemp’s possession lasted just one play, as the ’Jackets fumbled at the 21, but the Panthers chose to run the final 1:59 out with two running plays and a kneel-down.
Afterward, the Kemp players went over to stand with the Panthers during the playing of the Mabank school song.
“I thought that was a very classy thing to do,” Mabank head coach Jimmy Cantrell said later. “I wish them nothing but the best.
“That Leif kid – you’ve got to admire him, coming back after that elbow injury,” Cantrell added. “He played well.”
“I was really proud of our kids and the way we played (in the second half), down 28-0,” Kemp head coach Walt Mangan said.
“The difference in the game was we had two turnovers in the first four series,” Mangan noted.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Kemp’s Leif Skierski (3) saves a touchdown as he drags down Panther defensive back Zach Costlow at the Kemp 13, following Costlow’s 67-yard interception return Friday.

Harlan district MVP again
Monitor Staff Reports
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Eustace senior Alyson Harlan snagged her second straight Most Valuable Player award last week.
Harlan, who led the Lady Bulldogs to a third-place playoff berth, topped the 13-3A All-District team released by district coaches Friday.
Unbeaten district champion Mabank had seven players named to superlative positions or on the first team, including Blocker of the Year Kelly Hitzfeld and Setter of the Year Kelsi Reynolds.
Back-row standout Pheng Leav was named as a Co-Defensive Player of the Year, along with Crandall’s Macy Wade.
Mabank’s Hali Schultz was named as a Co-Server of the Year, along with Eustace’s Jessica Parker.
Crandall’s Megan Helal was named Hitter of the Year, while Kaufman freshman Shelby Petros was named the Newcomer of the Year.
Mabank’s Stacy Shelton was named the Coach of the Year.
Mabank junior Miranda Groom and senior Shadia Rueb were both named to the first team, along with Eustace senior Traci Garrett and sophomore Cassie Freeman.
Kemp senior Julie Gorka was the only Lady Yellowjacket named to the first team.
District runner-up Crandall placed three players on the first team, while Ferris had two players and Kaufman one.
Mabank players named to the second team were junior Bridgette Tanner and senior Lindsie Amyx, joining Eustace junior Rebekah Walter and Kemp seniors Alex Valentine, Ashley Zellmer and Jamie Hunter.
Mabank players receiving honorable mention were juniors Macey Thomas, Ashley Corter, Katie Cross, Kelsie Busby and Haley Brackenridge, along with sophomore Erica Umana.
Eustace senior Kayla Stacks received honorable mention, along with Kemp’s Keleigh Collinsworth, Paige Moore, Sabrina Trammell and Meagan Lacy.
Mabank, Eustace and Kemp each had strong showings on the district’s All-Academic team, each placing all (or almost all) of their team members on the list.
Mabank’s Academic nominees were Amyx, Brackenridge, Busby, Corter, Cross, Hitzfeld, Leav, Reynolds, Rueb, Thomas and Umana.
Eustace Academic nominees were Harlan, Parker, Stacks, Walter, Garrett, Vanessa Maltos, Casey Hampton, Ashley Houston, Caty DiBari, Kim Austin, Crysta Lowry, Nicole McNeal, Jessica McConathy, Jenny McConathy and Erica Sanchez.
Kemp Academic nominees were Zellmer, Valentine, Hunter, Gorka, Collinsworth, Moore, Trammell, Lacy and Breanna Griffin.

ALYSON HARLAN
Eustace
Most Valuable Player


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