Panther Creek had revenge on the mind, and its defense made sure to get it.
The Catamounts avenged a regular-season loss with a 28-7 victory in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA playoffs.
Green Hope (10-3) had won the regular-season finale against the Catamounts 17-10 on the same field two weeks prior that gave the Falcons the higher seed between the top two teams from the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference.
“We had to really get on our guys about hey, let’s cut through the pagentry of the game and worry about what the football game is. Let the emotions play out and then let’s play football,” Panther Creek coach Sean Crocker said.
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Panther Creek’s biggest change from the first game was the pressure it got on Green Hope quarterback Luke Massei. The Catamounts (11-2) racked up nine sacks on the night, three by Julian Wheaton.
“Our coaches changed it up a little bit. We had a few stunts on the D-line and that confused them a little bit,” Wheaton said.
The pressure also forced Massei into four interceptions – with two by Isaiah Laster and one each by Dallas Hancock and Ryan Callahan – and the Falcons had to face more passing downs. With the sacks not factored in, Green Hope ran 15 times for 28 yards.
“I think our defense played a fantastic game against a really good Green Hope offense,” Crocker said.
Panther Creek scored 14 points in the third quarter and only ran one offensive play to do it.
Green Hope’s Luke Massei was picked off by Callahan on the third play of the second half. On the next, Brenden Magner found a diving Caleb Cross on a 13-yard touchdown.
The Catamounts forced Green Hope to a 3-and-out on the next drive, and Diamante Taylor returned the punt 76 yards for score and a 21-7 lead. The teams had gone into halftime tied at 7-all.
“That was a big momentum changer. We needed that,” Wheaton said.
The Falcons struck first on a 13-yard pass form Massei to Ridge Ford on a crossing route. Green Hope covered 95 yards on the drive.
Panther Creek answered with 9 minutes till halftime as Toney Bass ripped open a 40-yard scamper up the middle and was barely touched.
Green Hope’s Ford and Will McClain had interceptions. Green Hope tied for the second-most wins in school history this year and won a conference title for the first time since 2004.
Panther Creek will make the short cross-county trek next week to Garner, where the Catamounts’ defense will see if it can continue its stellar season against star running back Nyheim Hines.