Clark, Panthers rally to win opener, 22-18

Published 12:45 am Saturday, August 19, 2017

PINETOWN — Perquimans quarterback Mason Votava scrambled to his left, running 13 yards for a touchdown mere seconds into the fourth quarter. It gave the visiting Pirates an 18-6 edge with less than 12 minutes. Northside, after sputtering on offense for three quarters, mounted a comeback to take the season opener, 22-18.

WATCH: Northside coach Keith Boyd’s comments after the win

Johnathan Clark shouldered the offensive load late in the game. As the Panthers pieced together their first complete drive of the game, Clark made a 17-yard dash to put his team inside Perquimans’ 10-yard line. He set himself up to dart in two plays later. A successful 2-point conversion from Tyree Blount cut Perquimans’ lead to 18-14 with 6:42 left.

PHOTOS: Perquimans at Northside

“As the game went on, we finally woke up and started doing what I thought we could do,” Northside coach Keith Boyd said. “We’re fortunate. We made a few plays down the stretch. We found a couple of plays that were working for us. Johnathan made a couple of plays for us, and we got out of here with a win.”

When it needed to, Northside’s defense stood tall against the Pirates’ balanced offense. The Panthers had to get a quick stop to have enough time to complete the rally. They got just that when Gray Lewis helped stuff the visitors at the line of scrimmage. He made a block reminiscent of 7-foot-2 former NBA center Dikembe Mutombo when he swatted a pass attempt by Votava on third-and-5, forcing a three-and-out.

Northside started on its 44-yard line, and it didn’t take long for Clark to put the Panthers in striking distance. He rumbled 47 yards along the left side, taking them all the way to Perquimans’ 7-yard line. He scored from six yards out two plays later, giving Northside a 22-18 edge.

“We’ve been working too hard in the summertime for someone to come on our home field and beat us like that,” Clark said of his mindset.

With Northside leading by four and 3:35 left on the clock, the Pirates had enough time to pull ahead and evaporate the clock. They were able to drive into Panther territory, and Votava shed multiple would-be sacks before Tyreck Brown finally brought him down with less than 1:30 left.

Votava — who had success throwing the ball — took to the air shortly after. Tanner Alligood jumped the route and came up with a nearly 50-yard interception to all but seal the game.

“I saw those receivers going deep, and I knew Johnathan was over there. He had the one on the outside and I had the one on the inside,” Alligood said. “When he threw the ball, I just broke on it. … The quarterback, the whole time since he hiked the ball, he was staring at the right side.”

While neither offense dazzled early, Perquimans found its footing first. Mahli Jones used one hand to haul in a 20-yard touchdown catch with 12.7 seconds left in the first quarter to give the Pirates the lead. They doubled that advantage when Dwuan Williams Jr. powered through the middle for a 4-yard score.

Meanwhile, Northside seemed out of sync. Quarterback Matthew Marslender made a few good runs in the first half. However, everything from miscommunication to mishandled snaps to penalties had the Panthers dismantling their own drives.

“We just didn’t play our brand of football,” Boyd said of the first-half struggles. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and get some things straight, offensively and defensively.”

The Panther offense showed signs of life coming out of halftime, but ended up punting the ball away anyways. Parker Boyd shifted momentum with a pick. Despite a flag pushing the Panthers’ staring point back 15 yards to their own 40-yard line, Tyree Blount was able to carry them into the red zone to set up his 17-yard scoring scamper — Northside’s first touchdown in 2017.

In all, Northside outscored Perquimans 22-6 in the second half. After winning the opener, it shifts its focus to a two-game road swing that begins at North Duplin next week.