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Hounds Nip Panthers
J. C. Tilton

It was an exciting start to the 2004 football season by both teams. Last Friday night fans saw a game with several lead changes, exciting passes and runs, and a finish that was not decided until the last minute of play. A good sized crowd was on hand as the game was well attended by fans for both teams. It was one of the larger opening days that I can remember.

The first quarter saw the Dixie offense sputter. They could not generate a first down in their first two possessions. The Panther offense opened with a roar, until they got into the red zone that is. Their first drive started on their own 30 and advanced to the Dixie 12. Then the penalty bug bit, TVS then had an illegal procedure and a delay of game to put them into 4th and long where they turned the ball over on downs. After Dixie had to punt again, TVS again moved the ball into the redzone. Advancing to the Dixie 20, where a stubborn Dixie defense made a stand and forced TVS to again turn over the ball on downs.

Now the Dixie offense stopped sputtering and got some life. Up to this point TVS had a huge advantage in time of possession and seemed to be dominating. Dixie quickly got two first downs and advanced almost to midfield, not quite into Panther territory. Quarterback Chad Craft called his own number and made a 53 yard broken field run for the first score of the night. With 6:26 left in the 2nd quarter Dixie was up 7-0. TVS could not get any traction on their possession and punted for the first time. It looked like momentum had swung around to the Hounds. But a Dustin Bassler interception put an early end to any hopes of Dixie going up by 2 scores before halftime.

Both teams exchanged possessions and then TVS had the ‘forever' punt. The first attempt at punting had to be redone when Dixie was called for holding. TVS elected to punt again from 10 yards closer. Then the next attempt, TVS was called for illegal procedure. And for good measure TVS was called for illegal procedure on the attempt after that. Finally on the 4th attempt, the punt was away - and since it took so long for the actual punt to occur the hands of the returner must have grown cold, as the ball was muffed at about the 10 yard line with TVS recovering. South took advantage of this gift and an Armstrong pass to Derek Smith put TVS on the board. On the extra point, TVS elected to use a little trickery as TVS set up for a kick, but instead Armstrong optioned to Dustin Bassler for a 2 point conversion to put TVS up at halftime 8-7.

In the second half, TVS received and they were able to move the ball well, capping the drive with a 25 yard by Anthony Armstrong for the touchdown. The extra point kick was wide and TVS was up 14-7 with about 10:17 left in the third. But a determined Dixie needed to answer - and did. Ethan Owens had an excellent kick-off return to the TVS 40. About this time the only blemish of the night occurred. A TVS player was injured enough to need removal by an ambulance, but none was on site. The game was halted for a period of time as the trainers waited for emergency services to arrive.

After the EU departed, the teams warmed up and Dixie picked up where they left off. Dixie ran the ball in for a TD, but the extra point attempt was denied. TVS still lead by the narrowest of margins 14-13. Dixie kept their momentum, holding TVS to 3 plays and out on their possession. But Dixie's offense was only able to manufacture 1 first down before punting. South was deep in their own territory when Armstrong dropped back to pass. He eluded the first tackler, and was trying to elude a second Dixie defender when he was brought down in the endzone for a 2 point safety. Now Dixie had regained the lead 15-14.

But on the ensuing kick from TVS to Dixie, another muffed ball lead to a TVS recovery at midfield. But TVS's drive would be ended by a Ben Spahr interception. Dixie was able to mount another drive that ended on the TVS 22, as the South defense held when they had to. But time was slipping away with 5:15 left in the game. South was faced with a 4th and long. They lined up in punt formation but did a fake. Armstrong received the snap from center and pitched to Bassler who pulled up and winged the ball down field to Justin Flynn for a critical Panther first down. But the Hound defense was stingy, not allowing the Panthers to advance any closer to the goal. Dixie took over on downs, ran 3 plays and punted with 4 seconds left. The punt was covered and time ran out for a Grey Hound victory.


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