It was a heartbreaking ending for the Saint Jo Panther football team’s season on Friday night.
The team lost to Coolidge 43-42, coming up one blocked extra point kick short at the end of regulation from winning the game.
The Yellowjackets came into the game after beating the Panthers previous playoff foe Blum in the previous game, but Saint Jo was confident it could win the game due to its tougher pre-district schedule testing the team earlier in the season.
Early on it looked like the Panthers were the better team.
Speedy running back Logan Brawner scored on the games first offensive play, running 60-yards for a touchdown. Coolidge did answer on its first drive scoring on a big pass play to go up 8-6.
From there though, it was the Panthers that took control of the rest of the first quarter.
Saint Jo scored on its next drive as Brawner scored on a short run. The team then recovered the onside kick as Jonathan Diaz jumped on the ball. One play later quarterback Matthew Butler-Everson found Diaz for a 22-yard touchdown pass to make the score 22-8.
The Panther defense then got a stop on the Yellowjackets’ next offensive possession. Unfortunately, Saint Jo’s offense stalled thanks to a big negative run.
The Panthers still looked to be in control of the momentum as Diaz came through with another big play. He intercepted a pass on defense on Coolidge’s first offensive play after its stop.
This time the Saint Jo offense took advantage, as Brawner scored on a short run to cap off a drive, making the score 28-8 to begin the second quarter.
The Panther defense then forced another turnover as Jace Johnson jumped on a fumble. Saint Jo’s offense again went down the field, thanks to two big pass plays from Brawner to A.J. Wright. Brawner then capped off the drive with another short touchdown run to go up 36-8.
Then disaster hit the Panthers. Brawner at some point pulled his hamstring and was out for the rest of the game.
While the team has done a better job of trying to balance out the offense this year instead of relying so much on the all-state player, this is still a guy who has rushed for more than 7,000 yards and scored more than 140 touchdowns the last three seasons. That type of production is hard to replace especially in the middle of a playoff game.
“When he went out of the game, it just changed the whole momentum,” Coach Mark Stevens said. “Our kids, it took us a little time to recover. Their kids you could tell their sideline, saying he was out, and they started playing a little harder.”
The Yellowjackets sensed the fear from the Panthers side and stung.
Coolidge scored on its next offensive drive on an 11-yard touchdown pass. Saint Jo’s offense then committed its first turnover throwing an interception on fourth down. The Yellowjackets scored again, this time on a 20-yard pass to cut the lead to 36-22 heading into halftime.
The momentum kept up for Coolidge to start the second half. The Yellowjackets scored on their opening drive of the third quarter on a big 37-yard pass to cut the lead to one score.
The Panthers then fumbled away the ball on its kickoff return. Coolidge tied the game at 36-36 three plays later on an 18-yard run.
The two teams traded drives that ended with turnovers on downs before Saint Jo’s offense had another one right before the quarter ended.
The Yellowjackets then took the lead on the final play of the third on a 23-yard run. Coolidge led for the first time since the beginning of the game 43-36.
The Panthers then went on a long offensive drive into the Yellowjackets territory that took up almost half the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Saint Jo turned the ball over on downs again.
Coolidge was looking like it was in position to run the clock out with the success it was having on offense. For some reason the Yellowjackets elected to run a play instead of kneel the ball as the Panthers had no time outs left.
This gave Saint Jo some hope as Diaz made another big play recovering a fumble on defense that Payton Harris forced. The Panthers got the ball back with 1:03 left to play and needing a touchdown.
The team had not scored since Brawner had left the game midway through the second quarter. The offense had had five unsuccessful drives since then.
With the season on the line though and time running out, Saint Jo found some magic. Butler-Everson completed passes to three different receivers moving the Panthers down the field.
With time running out and on the final play of regulation, Butler-Everson scrambled in for a 5-yard touchdown run. It made the score 43-42.
With extra point kicks in six-man counting for two-points, a good one would win the game for Saint Jo.
“When we went back and watched it on film, the snap was a little high that threw the timing of the kick off just a little bit, but we missed blocking a guy we should have had and he blocked the kick,” Stevens said.
To read the full story, pick up a copy of the mid-week edition of the Bowie News.