PREP FOOTBALL: Knights outlast Panthers, 28-27, at home

Arab’s Mathew Turnage (6) scored all four touchdowns for the Knights in their 28-27 win over Southside Friday night. (Gary McGriff for The Cullman Tribune)

ARAB, Ala. – On a perfect night for football Southside of Gadsden traveled to Arab for an AHSAA Class 6A Region 7 matchup. The Knights of Arab held off a late-game surge by the Panthers to win by a score of 28-27.

Southside took the opening kickoff and on the fifth play of the drive quarterback Michael Rich fumbled.  The ball was recovered by John Bowman at midfield where the Knights began their first drive.  Arab was forced to punt after six plays.

Starting at its own 20-yard line, Southside went on an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive.  Carnel Davis led the drive with six runs capped off with a 2-yard touchdown run.  With 4:13 left in the first quarter Southside led 7-0.

Arab took over at its own 39-yard line.  Quarterback Aidan Cox completed a 50-yard pass to Brody McCain and Mathew Turnage scored from 10 yards out with 3:00 left in the first quarter and Arab tied the score 7-7.

On Southside’s first play of its next drive the Panthers fumbled the ball again and Arab’s Jonah Humphreys recovered at Southside’s 23-yard line. On the very next play, Turnage scored again and Arab took its first lead with 2:22 left in the first quarter, 14-7.

Arab’s defense forced a punt by the Panthers and the Knights took over with great field position at Southside’s 29-yard line.  Both teams were called for penalties and the period ended with the score 14-7 in favor of Arab.

On the second play of the second quarter, Cox completed a 24-yard pass to Spencer Strickland and the Knights looked to extend their lead.  On the next play, Turnage scored his third touchdown on a 1-yard run.  With 10:46 left in the half, Arab led 21-7.

Arab looked poised to force a Southside punt when the Panthers faced a fourth-and-1.  Rich picked up the first down on a 2-yard run.  Three plays later Rich completed a 54-yard touchdown pass to Cody Roberts.  Southside missed the extra point and Arab maintained the lead 21-13 with 7:20 to go in the first half.

Arab used more than six minutes of the second quarter on an 11-play drive when Cox overcame a sack with a 25-yard pass to John Wesson Johnson.  On a fourth-and-5, the Panthers stopped Arab’s drive, but Southside was unable to take advantage and the first half ended with Arab leading 21-13.

On the first possession of the second half, Arab appeared to be driving for another score when an offensive pass interference penalty was called against the Knights in Southside’s end zone.  Facing a fourth-and-13 from Southside’s 28, Cox completed a pass to Turnage, and with 7:16 left in the third quarter Arab’s lead was 28-13.

Looking to answer, Southside went on an eight-play drive and looked to score.  Rich’s pass at the goal line was intercepted by Johnson and Arab took over at its own 9-yard line.  Even aided by a personal foul penalty against the Panthers, the Knights were forced to punt. Excellent special team coverage pinned Southside at its own 1-yard line to start the fourth quarter.

Rich had back-to-back 13-yard runs and Davis added an 18-yard run.  Arab got a sack from Jacob Cobb and looked to have Southside stopped.  After a 13 yard pass, the Panthers faced a fourth-and-5 at Arab’s 45-yard line.  Southside managed to get the Knights to jump offsides and the first down allowed Southside’s drive to continue.  After a couple of complete passes and an Arab penalty, Southside was on Arab’s 1-yard line where Rich ran the ball for a touchdown to complete the 99-yard scoring drive.  Southside went for two on the extra point try and Davis ran the ball in the make the score 28-21 with 7:38 left in the game.

Following a couple of runs by Turnage, Cox completed a 13-yard pass to Strickland.  After a facemask penalty against the Panthers, Arab looked poised to extend its lead, but Southside’s Brooks Nesmith intercepted Cox on the next play the Panthers were set for an exciting finish at Arab’s 43-yard line.

Rich provided some needed runs along with Davis, and on the ninth play of the drive the Southside quarterback scored on a 3-yard run. With 1:48 left to go in the game, the Panthers could tie the game with a kick or go ahead with a two-point conversion.  After a timeout, Southside Coach Gary Nelson elected to go for the lead.  Rich’s pass in the end zone fell incomplete, and with 1:48 left in the game, Arab’s lead was 28-27.

Knight John Wilks covered the onside kick, and after a 16-yard run by Turnage, Coach Lee Ozmint’s Arab Knights won the game 28-27 to improve to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in region play.

Turnage ended the night rushing for 172 yards on 29 rushes and scored all four of Arab’s touchdowns.  Cox went 11 for 14 passing for 182 yards.

Arab travels to Brewer High School next week.

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