Panthers claw ’Jackets, 35-0
Crandall win gives Panthers share of District 13-3A
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
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
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
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
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 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
Kemp senior Julie Gorka was the only Lady Yellowjacket named to the
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
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
Kemp Academic nominees were Zellmer, Valentine, Hunter, Gorka,
Collinsworth, Moore, Trammell, Lacy and Breanna Griffin.
Most Valuable Player
MHS @ Canton
KHS @ Crandall Classic
EHS vs Bullard
MHS @ Van
KHS @ Fairfield
EHS @ Quinlan-Ford
Nov. 30-Dec. 2
Cedar Creek Lake Shoot-0ut
KHS @ Cayuga Tourney
MHS @ Cross Roads
MHS vs Terrell
EHS vs Rusk
KHS @ Scurry-Rosser
KHS @ Edgewood
MHS vs Royse City
KHS vs Mineola
EHS @ Van