By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
SHANNON – The mere mention of the Amory Panthers versus the Shannon Red Raiders should evoke memories of a football rivalry that once made all others pale in comparison in Northeast Mississippi.
Years and reclassification has taken the shine off the matchup, but there was some flash and some pounding Friday night that was certainly worthy of classic status as Shannon roared to the early lead, then held on for a 21-14 victory over Amory.
“We had two big plays, then we kind of grinded it out,” Shannon coach Chad Cook said.
The Red Raiders (2-2) certainly flashed its quick-strike ability early, beginning with the very first touch of the contest. Gathering in the opening kickoff, Nick Pack quickly hit a seam on the left side, and was gone for a 97-yard touchdown.
“I’ve been working with the kickoff team all year,” Cook said. “I asked them to get a piece of their guy, and at least get us to midfield. We got some blocks early on this one.”
Shannon’s second score was almost as sudden.
The Raiders had taken seven plays to move from its 20-yard line to midfield. There, Kayon Lowery started on a sweep left, reversed his direction, then sprinted around the Amory defense for a 50-yard score and a 14-0 Shannon lead.
But there was still more to come in the first quarter.
Amory (1-4) responded with a seven play drive. Quarterback Forest Williams bought time with a nice scramble, then found Ryan Hill for a 5-yard touchdown.
Shannon still had time left in the first period, and a run and pass by quarterback Jake Scott totaled 59 yards. That set up a 9-yard scoring run by Marcus Thomson, and a 21-7 advantage for the Raiders.
“We definitely had a breakdown on special teams early, and that hurt,” first year Amory coach Trent Hammond said. “But we’re improving every week, and we’re going to wind up being a good football team.”
After the frenetic pace of the first quarter, the game settled down into a more pounding, hard-fought affair the rest of the way.
The Panthers flashed some positive offense in the third quarter, driving into scoring position on its first possession of the period, only to miss a 37-yard field goal. But on their second possession of the quarter, an 11-play drive ultimately ended in success with an 8-yard scoring pass from Williams to Hill that cut the Shannon lead to 21-14.
“We’ve got to get better on offense, but I thought Jake Scott did a good job stepping in tonight,” said Cook of Scott, who was subbing for the injured Legibert Bogan. “I’d watched three game films of Amory, and had seen three different offenses, so I was worried about our defense.”
But the Shannon defense ultimately held up.
Amory only drove into scoring position again once in the fourth quarter, where the ball was turned over on downs. For Shannon, a handful of nice runs by Demonta Middlebrooks netted two first downs, helping to keep Amory from scoring the tying touchdown.