The Panther Creek defense had done it all night. What was one more play?
The Catamounts stopped a Green Hope two-point conversion try with 1:37 remaining Thursday to hang on for a wild 28-27 win over their Highway 55 football rival.
After Panther Creek took a 28-21 lead with 3:38 to play on Anthony Burlingame’s quarterback sneak, the Falcons marched 70 yards and capped the drive with Willie Taylor’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Aiden Callahan. Not interested in playing for overtime on the road, Green Hope (3-4, 2-2 Southwest Wake Athletic Conference 4A) and head coach Kwame Dixon decided to go for it.
Equally uninterested in losing the game in such fashion, the Catamounts (3-4, 3-2) pressured Taylor out of the pocket and swiped away his end zone pass.
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“We were going for the win. We didn’t come here for a tie,” Dixon said. “We wanted to control our own destiny. I didn’t want to leave it up to anyone else.”
It was the biggest defensive play of the night for the Catamounts but hardly the first. Panther Creek’s first-quarter touchdown – a 21-yard pass from Burlingame to Joe Broucek – was set up by Justin Smalls’ strip of the football during a Falcon punt return.
The Catamounts’ second score came courtesy of a 35-yard interception return touchdown by Charles Edwards. Then Burlingame’s go-ahead touchdown was set up by a fumble recovery by Chris Powell at the Green Hope 36-yard line.
“Our defense came up big tonight,” Panther Creek head coach Sean Crocker said. “We put a lot of pressure on them and our guys did a good job covering. We just got out there.”
Green Hope was not to be outdone in the big play department. After the Falcons scored early on Sohum Sing’s 23-yard pass from Taylor, a 50-yard kickoff return by Blake Watson gave Green Hope a short field that was finished off by Paul Robinson’s 3-yard run to knot things at 14-14 late in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth, Green Hope came up with a blocked punt to set up another short field, this one finished off by Taylor’s 25-yard scoring strike to Callahan for a brief 21-14 lead.
But Addison Pinkney scored from 3 yards out with under 6 minutes to play in the fourth to again square things at 21-21.
The game didn’t turn until Taylor scrambled to his right and threw into traffic in the end zone on Green Hope’s two-point conversion try with under 2 minutes to play.
THREE TO KNOW
Anthony Burlingame, Panther Creek: The quarterback tossed for 211 yards while completing 18 of 32 throws. The senior threw for one touchdown and ran for another.
Willie Taylor, Green Hope: The sophomore completed 10 of his 22 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns.
Dylon Washington, Green Hope: The junior rushed for 101 yards on 19 carries.
BY THE NUMBERS
54: Number of passes the teams combined for.
58: Number of combined rushes.
3: Miles separating the schools.
THEY SAID IT
“Our guys and their guys grew up playing Pop Warner and different leagues together. It becomes a bitter rival when they get to high school.” – Crocker on the game dubbed the “Fight for 55.”