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After a long off-season, a cancelled game, and a 22-minute rain delay, the Smiths Station Panthers finally kicked off their 2020 season last Friday night at Panther Stadium. The Panthers dropped their first game of the season to Gardendale 26-7 in a soggy night and are 1-1 currently.
This game wasn’t originally scheduled but after cancelling the Columbus High game the Panthers needed another opponent or the Panthers would have gone through two weeks without playing a single snap. The team that answered the call was the Rockets who were ranked 10 in the 6A pre-season poll in the State of Alabama.
Coach Mike Glisson chose the Rockets for two reasons—they had an open week as well, and he thought they would be a good challenge for his team to get ready for region play in a tough Region 2.
Defensively, the Panthers held tough against Gardendale. They gave up around 320 yards and were only down 17-7 at the half. The defense forced three punts and forced a turnover before the first half ended with a sack by junior defensive end Mike Mellage. The defense tightened up and only allowed ten points in the second half and a late fourth-quarter touchdown disguised the game as a little more out-of-reach than it actually was.
“I thought our defense played well, they bent a little but they managed to keep them out of the endzone a good bit,” Glisson said.
After an opening touchdown by Gardendale, Smiths Station responded with a two-yard rushing touchdown by middle linebacker Jordan Jones, who got a couple of snaps on the offensive side of the ball this game at the running back position. The touchdown was set up after senior quarterback Corey Minton threw a 37-yard strike to Ahmari Peabody to get the Panthers to a first and goal. The score ended a five-play, 61-yard drive.
After the success of the first drive, the offense stalled the rest of the game and would punt on their next six drives; their final two drives ended in turnovers.
The offense gained around 100-yards for the game.
“We want to improve and get better, that was our first game and that was their second game and that plays into it some too,” Glisson said.
Up next for Smiths Station is long-time rival Central High School tomorrow night at Panther Stadium for the first region game for both teams. The Devils are coming into this game wounded after starting 0-2 for the first time since 2006, ironically that same year Smiths Station won 14-7 at home in Panther Stadium.
Last year’s meeting was won by Central 44-0. The Panthers are looking for their first win in the Backyard Brawl series since 2008 when they won 27-24.