After keeping the game close through two quarters, Cumberland Gap couldn’t hold on as North Greene pulled away for a 40-8 victory on Friday. Penalties and lost opportunities contributed to the Panthers defeat. Cumberland Gap made it to Huskies territory five times throughout the game before penalties or lost yardage cut the drives short.
“I don’t think the final score was a true testament to how close we were to this game,” said Panther head coach Corey Russell. “When we get a chance to make a play, we got to make a play. Right now, where not doing a great job of doing that. Sometimes it’s a mental mistake by us or a physical mistake.”
Going into halftime, Cumberland Gap trailed 13-8. After that, North Greene went on to score 27 unanswered points after establishing their running game.
“It goes back to not making a play,” said Russell. “Most of the time, we had guys in position. It’s we’re a step behind or we over pursue or we’re reaching out for an arm tackle instead of putting pads on legs like we should. It’s just lack of execution.”
Russell went on to say that he feels like the effort is there, and the team is playing hard.
The Panther defense had trouble stopping the running game of North Greene. Tyler Stroud rushed for 115 yards and four touchdowns on 10 carries against Cumberland Gap. Cody Compton also broke the century mark with 108 yards on eight carries.
Chris Howlett was the third leading rusher for the Huskies. He ran for 57 yards and one touchdown on 15 attempts.
North Greene didn’t provide much offense through the air. Stroud threw for 26 yards on three completions.
While the defense struggled against the Huskies, Cumberland Gap’s offense flourished at times. The team was in scoring position several times throughout the game but came up short each time.
Ethan Ellison went 10 of 31 through the air for 139 yards and one touchdown. He also scrambled for 14 yards on 19 carries. He threw two interceptions during the game, one which was returned for a touchdown.
The sophomore quarterback targeted five different receivers during the game. Preston England led the receiving corps with 78 yards and a touchdown on four receptions. Brandon Helton was the second leading receiver with 35 yards on two receptions. Bryce Rogers caught one pass for 24 yards as well.
“We’ve made some strides offensively,” said Russell. “We do some really good things at times. Tonight, we had too many drops early in the game. We had several passes in the first quarter that should have been completed that weren’t. You can move the ball up and down the field all you want, but the name of the game is putting it in the end zone. It doesn’t matter what you do between the goal lines, you’ve got to cross the goal line.”
The North Greene defense held the Panther running game to a standstill. Many of the larger runs were negated later by big losses. Cumberland Gap’s leading rusher on the night was Zack Gulley. He rushed for 18 yards on three attempts — all on the final drive of the game.
The Panthers were able to move the ball into scoring position on the opening drive of the game. On the third play of the drive, Ellison completed a 23-yard pass to Helton to take Cumberland Gap down to the Husky 36.
With 8:30 remaining in the first, Ellison connected with England for a 25-yard touchdown. The play was called back due to a holding penalty. Two plays later, the Panthers had to punt the ball away.
From that point on, neither team could get anything going. The score was tied 0-0 heading into the second quarter.
Following a punt, Cumberland Gap took over possession to start the second quarter. On the first play of the drive, Ellison through an interception to Elijah Sauls after a Gap receiver tipped the ball.
They play proved to be detrimental for the Panthers. North Greene’s quick three-play drive ended with a 2-yard touchdown plunge by Howlett with 10:37 remaining in the half. The Stroud extra point gave the Huskies a 7-0 lead.
Cumberland Gap answered quickly with a touchdown of their own on the ensuing drive. On third-and-15, Ellison completed a 24-yard pass to Rogers to take the Panthers down to the North Greene 36.
Ellison rushed for 10 yards on the next four plays to move the ball down to the 23, but a 3-yard loss from Cornett put the Panthers in a fourth-and-15 situation. North Greene helped Cumberland Gap by roughing the passer to give the Panthers a fresh set of downs.
The drive concluded three plays later when Ellison completed a 36-yard pass to England for a touchdown with 6:20 remaining in the half. Ellison converted the two-point conversion with his legs to help Cumberland Gap take an 8-7 lead.
The Huskies answered on their next drive. After a big return by Dawson Russell, North Greene took over possession at their own 49-yard line. The 11-play drive was capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by Stroud. After the failed two-point conversion, the Huskies regained control of the lead, 13-8, with 1:55 remaining in the half.
North Greene scored three touchdowns in the third quarter alone.
On the opening drive of the second half, the Huskies drove the ball 57 yards down the field. The seven-play drive ended with a 9-yard Stroud sneak up the middle for a touchdown. North Greene failed to convert the two-point attempt after two penalties put the Huskies on the 13-yard line.
With 8:57 remaining in the third, North Greene led Cumberland Gap, 19-8.
A 2-yard gain and two straight incompletions put the Panthers in a fourth-and-8 situation on the ensuing drive. Cumberland Gap turned the ball over on downs after Ellison was sacked.
It took the Huskies 10 plays to score their second touchdown of the third quarter. The ensuing North Greene drive was capped off by an 11-yard touchdown run from Stroud. The extra point increased the North Greene lead to 26-8.
Cumberland Gap’s next drive ended in a turnover. The Panthers started the drive off strong with a 32-yard completion to England. The completion took Cumberland Gap down to the North Greene 34. Ellison inched the ball closer with a 3-yard scramble.
A sack for a loss of 10 and an incomplete pass put the Panthers in a fourth-and-17. Ellison threw an interception to Sauls, who returned it 75 yards for a touchdown with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter. Stroud missed the extra point bringing the score to 32-8.
The Huskies scored their final touchdown of the game with 5:24 remaining in the game. Stroud hit the edge and ran over a Panther defender to score on a 12-yard run. He then converted the two-point conversion with a pass to Sauls.
The final score was 40-8.
North Greene (2-3) has an off week this week before hosting Gatlinburg-Pittman (1-3) on Oct. 2. Cumberland Gap (0-4) travels to Pineville (2-2) on Friday.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN