Panthers fall short at Freedom
Friday night football featured the top two teams in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference as the Hibriten Panthers traveled to Morganton to take on the Freedom Patriots.
Hibriten fought back from 14-point deficits on two separate occasions, but ultimately came up short in a 42-35 loss to Freedom.
“Their (Freedom) defense did a good job containing us and they had the speed to match up with us,” Hibriten head coach Clay Lewis said. “When you play a good team like Freedom, you have to protect the ball and you can’t give up big plays. We didn’t do a good job with either of those.”
The Panthers (8-1 overall, 4-1 NW 3A/4A) tied the game at 35 points apiece with just 4:06 to play in regulation. However, on the very first play of the ensuing Freedom possession, quarterback Titus Smith hit the speedy Khris Gardin on a wide receiver screen. Gardin then sprinted up the Hibriten sideline 80 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 3:52 to play in the game. Hibriten turned the ball over on downs on the next possession.
“I’m real proud of the way we fought back,” Lewis said. “We came back from being down 14 twice and gave oursleves a chance to win.”
Freedom (8-1 overall, 5-0 NW 3A/4A) struck first about midway into the first quarter after a costly Hibriten miscue. The Panthers forced Freedom to punt, but the ball bounced off a Hibriten player and the Patriots got a fresh set of downs. Moments later, Smith hit Jamie O’Neil for a 31-yard touchdown pass.
After a Hibriten punt, BJ emmons capped of a seven-play, 83-yard drive with a 13-yard run to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Emmons’ touchdown was his first of three on the day.
The Panthers fought back to score the next 14 points. Hibriten drove 75 yards on just three plays, capped off by a 22-yard touchdown run by Daquan Suddreth. After forcing a Freedom punt, Hibriten put together another impressive drive. On fourth down, the Panthers lined up to punt, but Drake Felder caught the direct snap and ran 14 yards to convert the first down. A few plays later, Devell Maxwell scored from 17yards out to tie the game at 14.
On the ensuing possession, Freedom was forced to punt on a fourth and three. However, Hibriten called for a running into the kicker penalty, giving the Patriots a first down. Freedom had yet another fourth down, but the Patriots converted a fake of their own to get yet another fresh set of downs. Moments later, Emmons scored his second touchdown on a 33-yard run. Freedom held a 21-14 advantage at the half.
The Patriots received to open the second half, but Suddreth picked off Smith on the second play from scrimmage. Four plays later, TiShawn Daniels scored on a three-yard run to tie the game at 21-21.
Freedom took almost no time at all to re-gain its lead. Chris Bridges scored on an eight-yard run to conclude a 56-yard drive. After Hibriten threw an interception on its next possession, the Patriots scored again on Emmons’ third touchdown of the day. This one came from 23 yards out.
Hibriten fired right back, taking just 32 seconds off the clock. Copper scampered 40 yards for the score on the third play of the possession. Freedom held a 35-28 lead at the end of three.
The Panthers tied the game with 4:06 to play on a five-yard pass from Copper to Maxwell. The next Freedom play won the game on the 80-yard pass from Smith to Gardin.
Hibriten will has another tough opponent in Patton next week at home. With the playoffs right around the corner, the Panthers could use a big win.
FREEDOM 42, HIBRITEN 35
HIBRITEN^0 ^14 ^14 ^7 – 35
FREEDOM^14 ^7 ^14 ^7 – 42
F —Jamie O’Neil 31 pass from Titus Smith (McCartney Barrier kick), 6:06.
F — BJ Emmons 13 run (Barrier kick), :28.
H — Daquan Suddreth 22 run (Luke Robson kick), 11:39.
H — Devell Maxwell 17 run (Robson kick), 4:26.
F — Emmons 33 run (Barrier kick), 1:42.
H — TiShawn Daniels 3 run (Robson kick), 9:20.
F — Chris Bridges 8 run (Barrier kick), 8:05.
F — Emmons 23 run (Barrier kick), 2:04.
H — Jacob Copper 40 run (Robson kick), 1:32.
H — Maxwell 5 pass from Copper (Robson kick), 4:06
F — Khris Gardin 80 pass from Smith (Barrier kick), 3:52.
RUSHING - Hibriten: Jacob Copper 14-138, Devell Maxwell 11-134, Daquan Suddreth 7-37, Zac Walker 6-16, Drake Felder 1-14, TiShawn Daniels 7-13, Davone Jones 1-2. Freedom: Chris Bridges 15-71, BJ Emmons 13-115, Titus Smith 3-28, Team 1-(-1).
PASSING - Hibriten: Jacob Copper 6-10-1, 61 yards. Freedom: Titus Smith 8-20-3, 193 yards.
RECEIVING - Hibriten: Devell Maxwell 2-42, Zac Walker 2-14, Daquan Suddreth 1-5, Chris Echeverria 1-0. Freedom: Khris Gardin 3-118, Jamie O’Neil 1-31, Josh Ray 1-19, BJ Emmons 1-12, Marcus Wakefield 1-9, Niguel Moore 1-4.