Cumberland Gap overcame 160 yards in penalties and stopped four plays from inside their 10-yard line in the final minute to escape North Greene with an 18-14 win.
“We faced some adversity there in the first half, some things went against us but the kids stayed strong,” Panther coach Corey Russell said. “The fight and focus the guys showed just to keep doing their jobs was tremendous. The difference in us between this week and last week was daylight and dark as far as doing what we were supposed to do.”
Sophomore quarterback Ethan Ellison completed seven of 10 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. He added 42 rushing yards and scored what proved to be the winning points on a two-yard sneak on the second play of the fourth quarter.
Senior Ryker Gent was solid on the ground with 136 yards on 20 carries. Senior defensive back Adam Mullins had an interception and made a touchdown-saving tackle at the nine-yard line late in the game.
Senior receiver Kyle Evans caught five passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He also scored the first Panther points on a 6-yard end around and set up their go-ahead TD with a 24-yard catch and run down to the two.
“Kyle made good catches at crucial points for first downs. Ethan did a good job throwing the ball and made some really good quarterback decisions. He kind of grew up some tonight. The offensive line did a good job blocking and Ryker ran it well,” Russell added. “It was a good team effort all the way around.”
North Greene’s Mark Trent caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Zane Britton late in the first quarter to give the Huskies a 6-0 lead.
The Panthers strung together a pair of first downs to close out the first period, but the flags started flying early in the second. Cumberland Gap was hit with five penalties in the span of three plays — four of them 15-yarders — and faced a first and 50. They were bailed out when North was called for roughing the passer and an automatic first down, but another personal foul against the Panthers made it first and 25 at the 50. Gent broke runs of 20 and 23 yards to set up Evans’ 6-yard touchdown run on an end around to tie the game at 6.
Eli Shirey, who led the Huskies with 113 yards on 20 carries, capped a five-play drive with a 17-yard touchdown run. Emmett Robinson ran in the conversion on a fake kick and North Green led 14-6 at the half.
Cumberland Gap’s defense recovered a fumble near midfield early in the third quarter. After an 11-yard run by Gent, Ellison hit Evans for a 29-yard gain on a wheel route and then for a 12-yard touchdown pass on a slant into the end zone to bring the Panthers within 14-12.
The Panthers took over at their own 30 after a turnover on downs and put together an eight-play, 70-yard march to take the lead. Ellison had runs of 11 and 22 yards while Gent added an 11-yard gain. On the first play of the fourth quarter Ellison hooked up with Evans again for 24 yards and a first down at the North Greene two. Ellison ran it in from there on the very next play at Cumberland Gap had their first lead of the night at 18-14 with 11:45 to play.
“We made some adjustments at halftime and the guys did a good job coming out and executing those. It was a good win for us,” Russell said.
After an exchange of lengthy drives, the Panthers lost a fumbled snap and the Huskies recovered at their 41 with 1:59 remaining.
Two plays later Britton found Trent for a 51-yard gain. He was tackled at the nine by Mullins with 1:01 to go. Shirey was stopped after a short gain and Britton spiked the ball with about 30 seconds left. Trent got open in the end zone, but couldn’t hang on to Britton’s third-down pass. On fourth down Britton’s pass over the middle was broken up and the Panthers held on.
“We took our last time out after Mullins made that tackle on the nine. We stopped the run and came up with two big stops on those last two passes,” Russell said. Both teams were out of time outs, the clock was winding down and coaches on both sidelines were yelling at their guys. Our guys did a good job of doing what we asked them to do and came up with a big stop.”
Cumberland Gap (1-1) visits rival Claiborne next Friday while North Greene (0-2) hosts Hancock County.
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NG — Mark Trent 6 pass from Zane Britton (kick fail)
CG — Kyle Evans 6 run (kick fail)
NG — Eli Shirey 17 run (Emmett Robinson run)
CG — Evans 12 pass from Ethan Ellison (run fail)
CG — Ellison 2 run (pass fail)