Panthers comeback falls short

Published 11:04 pm Friday, November 26, 2021

The Northside Panthers stormed back from a 26-0 first half deficit, but fell short, 34-28, to the Pender HS Patriots in the fourth round of the 1A state playoffs Friday night at Bing Mitchell Stadium.

Fortino Beltran’s 40-yard run put the Panthers at the Pender 5-yard line on the third play from scrimmage, but Northside (11-2) committed back-to-back penalties and missed a field goal attempt to come away empty.

The Patriots (10-3) capitalized with a 67-yard scoring run, blocked a punt to the one yard line and scored, then recovered a Northside fumble and scored again for an 18-0 first quarter lead.

“We were not ready to play for whatever reason and it cost us the game,” coach Keith Boyd said. “We handed them two touchdowns and made uncharacteristic mistakes.”

Pender added another touchdown, before senior fullback Mitch Godley put the Panthers on the board with the first of four touchdown runs, for a 26-7 halftime deficit.

Godley scored from 11 yards out after the defense stopped the first Pender possession in the second half and made it 26-21 on a 27-yard run after Keifer Boyd partially blocked a Patriots punt.

Pender converted on fourth down deep in Northside territory, then scored for a 34-21 advantage with 11:23 left.

Godley blasted for 51 yards on Northside’s first play, then scored from five yards out on the next one to cut the deficit to 34-28 with 10 minutes left.

The Panthers defense forced a punt and took the ball at the 15 yard line with a chance to win or tie. A penalty wiped out Beltran’s long scoring run, but the offense moved to the Pender 29 on several running plays.

However, the season ended on a fourth down interception with 1:27 left.

“We looked like ourselves after the first quarter and gave ourselves a chance to win,” Boyd said. “I’m proud of the way we battled back, but some key plays on that last drive didn’t go our way.”

Pender (10-3) will travel to top-seeded Tarboro (12-1) for the East final Friday night.

Godley ended the night with 192 yards on 23 carries and scored all four Panthers touchdowns. The team totaled 369 rushing yards.