Panthers not allowing frustration to consume them

Published 5:25 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2017

PINETOWN — It’s frustrating for Northside to know that it could easily be 4-2 or 5-1 in its bye week now. Instead, a pair of close losses to Washington and, most recently, at Riverside, leaves the Panthers (2-4) backed against the wall with five games left to play.

Northside lost those two games by a combined seven points. A single touchdown has made the difference. The Panthers could have breathing room and a little time to relax during their off week. Rather, they’ve been on the practice field all week, knowing they need to pick up wins against top conference teams like Southside and Tarboro if they hope to make the playoffs.

There wasn’t any reluctance in getting back to work so quickly. There were many disappointed Panthers when Johnathan Clark was stopped five yards shy of the game-winning touchdown last Friday. It would have been a season-defining win, but ended as just another close loss.

Once coach Keith Boyd asked if they wanted to get back to practice on Monday — the beginning of their off week — the Panthers responded in unison.


What they’re doing is taking that mounting frustration and using it as motivation.

“It’s time for them to start seeing the fruits of their labor. It’s so frustrating as a coach because we’re fighting,” Boyd said. “I’m just frustrated for our kids, the community, the coaching staff. It’s hard.

“We’re going to bounce back. We’ve made a commitment. Open week, we’re practicing every day. That wasn’t me. That was the kids. That’s a positive sign. We’re going to get better. We’re going to beat some people. We’ve just got to stay together and unify within.”

Frustration dissipated a bit for Boyd when he saw how the players were so eager to get back to work as soon as possible.

“It says character,” he said. “It says we aren’t quitting. We’re a good football team. They know we’re a good football team. We just need to find a way to finish it on the scoreboard. … We’ve got to get tired of coming up three points short or four points short.”

Earlier in the season, it was a momentum swing that always seemed to go against Northside that would end up costing it the win: a loose ball that Washington ended up jumping on or a pair of explosive fourth-quarter plays by North Duplin.

“We’re a 5-1 football team. We just have not found a way to make that one play,” Boyd said.

That wasn’t the case at Riverside. The Panthers finally got their break when Jadakis Bonds, the Knights’ all-star receiver, muffed a punt in the fourth quarter. Tanner Alligood scooped it up, putting Raydarius Freeman in position to score his fourth touchdown and give Northside a 38-34 lead with 6:34 to play.

Northside got the big plays. It was the smaller, less noticeable swings that didn’t go its way: a missed tackle, a lapse in blocking or a bad read at the line of scrimmage. That’s why the Panthers are spending this week drilling down on fundamentals.

“What it goes back to is that we don’t completely believe from the time we walk onto the field until the end,” Boyd said. “… We saw, ‘Hey, we might can play with (Riverside).’ Let’s go play. We haven’t figured out that we should walk off and we’re just as good as anybody else.

“Walk on the field and go play.”

Taking some time to fine tune their game will help the Panthers. This idle week should give them plenty of time for that frustration to turn into eagerness to get back under the lights. Their record doesn’t reflect it, but they’re good enough to hang with just about any team left on the schedule.

They’ll be chomping at the bit come their next game, which is Oct. 6 at home against South Creek. It will have been almost a month since Northside will have had a home game. The energy will be there, and the Panthers will be ready to get back on course.