Rabbs win barn burner against Spring Hill, 56-49
Mathematical equations were thrown out the window last Friday night after the Atlanta Rabbits defeated Spring Hill, 56-49, in a back-and-forth affair.
Coming into the game the Panthers needed to beat the Rabbs by 11 points to advance as the fourth-place team out of District 7-4A, DII, but with the win Atlanta moves on to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.
As far as the series goes Spring Hill has never beaten the Rabbs (7-0). Although the last two contests were 7-point wins for the Rabbits, the closest the Panthers have come to topping Atlanta was a 9-7 loss in 1988.
This game was the equivalent of Nadal versus Federer or Ali versus Frazier as it was back-and-forth throughout most of the game.
Atlanta opened the game with the ball on the 30-yard line.
Running back Jawan King helped move the ball during the drive with 21 yards on the ground and seven through the air from quarterback Andy Samples.
Samples also picked up 15 rushing yards, but the drive ended later on the Panther 35 with 7:48 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers started out slow with a short gain and a penalty, but on third down Spring Hill took the ball from the 26 to Atlanta’s 38.
Three plays later the Panthers were in the endzone for a touchdown.
The PAT put Spring Hill up, 7-0, with 5:57 left in the first frame.
Atlanta fumbled on the kickoff as no forward progress whistles were blown and the Panthers stripped the ball.
A big pass play and two short runs later and Springhill was back across the goal line.
After the PAT the score was raised to, 14-0, with 5:12 left in the first.
On the Rabbs’ next drive, runs by King, Samples and Desmond Webster propelled Atlanta from the 29 to Springhill’s 42.
A few plays later and Atlanta turned the ball back over on downs at the 1:46 mark.
The opening quarter ended with the Panthers moving into Rabbit country after a 16-yard pass play.
The second quarter opened with the Panthers scoring on a long pass play on third down.
The PAT put the Panthers ahead, 21-0, with 11:49 left in the first half.
The Rabbs never hung their heads. They received the ball and went to work.
Beginning the drive from the 28, Samples rushed for five yards before connecting with receiver Austin Brown for 17 yards.
King gathered 19 yards on the ground followed by a 20-yard scramble from the feet of Samples.
A couple of hiccup plays later and the Rabbs faced third-and-long. Samples only gained four yards on the run but as he slid he was hit by a defender late which brought out the yellow tissues.
With new life Samples would end the drive a few plays later on a 3-yard scamper across the goal line.
Fernando Campos nailed the PAT and Atlanta had cut into the lead at, 21-7, with 6:45 on the clock.
After a couple of back-and-forth punts the Panthers scored again at the 3:23 mark.
The PAT put Spring Hill ahead, 28-7.
The next few minutes were magical for Atlanta.
Samples connected with Brown on a 48-yard TD at the 1:49 mark and after another successful PAT by Campos the score set at, 28-14.
On the next drive Nick Washington intercepted a pass after the Panthers moved across midfield.
Samples opened the Rabbs’ next drive with a 44-yard connection to Brown followed by two runs which equaled 20 yards.
The latter sprint was a 6-yard TD by the agile QB.
The PAT cut the lead to, 28-21, with seven seconds left in the half.
The second half of the game proved to be an epic slugfest between the two schools.
Spring Hill opened the second half with the ball and promptly scored on a long run to finish off a 4-play, 73-yard drive at the 10:54 mark.
The PAT cushioned Spring Hill’s lead to, 35-21.
Kade Wood took the ball into Panther territory after a nice return on the kickoff, and from there Samples found King for a 45-yard TD.
The PAT made the score, 35-28, with 10:05 left in the third stanza.
Spring Hill answered on its next drive with an 8-play drive which started at the Rabbit 46 and ended with a TD.
The PAT boosted the score to, 42-28, with 7:59 left in the third quarter.
Not to be outdone and just 18 seconds later, Samples connected with Brown on just one play which happened to be an 80-yard TD with 7:41 left on the clock.
The PAT by Campos made the score, 42-35.
Atlanta got a big break when the ball hit the ground during the Panthers’ next drive and the Rabbs recovered the pigskin at the 31.
The Rabbits made it as far as the 11 but couldn’t cash it in as they turned the ball over on downs with 5:34 left in the third.
Spring Hill also turned the ball over on downs on its next drive, and Atlanta got the ball at the 29.
After a couple of short runs by King and Samples, the elusive QB found Cade Rosser for a 68-yard score with 2:25 left to play in the third frame.
The PAT knotted the score at, 42-all.
One play, one big run put Spring Hill in Atlanta territory with time winding down in the quarter.
The clock hit zero with the Panthers facing third down-and-long from the Rabbit 30.
The final quarter opened with an incomplete pass which brought up fourth-and-long for the Panthers.
Unfortunately, the Spring Hill QB got loose from a smothering defense and found his receiver for a 30-yard score.
The PAT drove the score to, 49-42, with 11:49 left in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta moved the ball from the 25 to the 39 but faced a punting situation at the 10:34 mark.
A roughing the punter penalty gave the Rabbs new life, but Atlanta would turn the ball over on downs with 8:32 left in the game a few plays later.
The Rabbs knew they would need a big defensive stand and they gave the Atlanta fans just that as they stopped the Panthers on a big fourth down play with just over six minutes remaining in the contest.
The stop proved effective as the Rabbs gave the Panthers a steady dose of running plays by Samples, King and Dra Nelson.
Samples would bring the Rabbs within one after an 11-yard run into the endzone with 4:23 left in the fourth.
That PAT made the score, 49-all.
Spring Hill was backed up to the Atlanta 16 after a penalty on the kickoff, and after a near pick-6 on third down the Rabbs defense provided a sack on the fourth down attempt to give the Rabbs the ball with 3:34 left in the game.
Nelson, Samples and King combined to get the ball down to the 1-yard line where Samples took the ball in for a TD.
The PAT by Campos made the score, 56-49, with 1:17 left in the second half.
With time against them Spring Hill never got enough traction for a comeback, and the game ended along with the Panthers’ season.
The game was a good one to watch. After the Panthers took a, 21-0, lead Atlanta outscored them 56 to 28 down the stretch.
Samples was 9-of-17 with 315 passing yards and four scores, and had 24 carries for 164 yards and four TDs.
King ended the night with 84 yards and Nelson added 28 of his own.
King also had 57 yards receiving with a score, Rosser had 68 yards with a score and Brown led the way with four receptions for 190 yards and two TDs.
Campos was perfect on the night as he connected on eight extra point attempts.
Defensively Samples led the team with six solo tackles and Demontrae Collins had five.
Gerrod Oliver had 13 assisted tackles and Wood recovered a fumble.
The Rabbit defense constantly harassed Spring Hill’s QB as Reggie Blaylock posted two sacks, and Collins, Shun Hunter, Josh Lawson, Oliver and Connor Samples recorded one sack each.
Atlanta (5-5) will play against 8-4A, DII champion Jasper (7-2) at 7:30 p.m. this Friday inside the friendly confines of Bulldog Stadium in Carthage.