Southside beats Hokes Bluff 22-15 in season opener


Southside’s Saige Dale celebrates beating Hokes Bluff after the teams’ season-opening matchup at Barney Hood Stadium in Southside on Thursday night. (Photo by Nick Johnston | Gadsden Times)


 

The Gadsden Times’ Game of the Week lived up to its billing.

Southside defeated Hokes Bluff 22-15 in overtime Thursday night, giving the Panthers a season-opening win over one of their biggest rivals.

Dantley Coker scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on Southside’s possession in overtime. He took a handoff and nearly got bottled up at the line of scrimmage before bouncing outside and taking it into the end zone.

Hokes Bluff went backward on its overtime possession, and a high snap over reserve quarterback Cole Williams’ head on fourth down gave the Panthers a victory and set off a wild celebration at Barney Hood Stadium. The play before, Williams threw a picture-perfect pass across the middle that would have been a sure touchdown, but the pass was dropped.

“I’m pleased we got the W,” Southside coach Marty Smith said. “It’s been a long time (2008) since we started 1-0 around here. To be able to do that, it’s a blessing. We’re looking forward to Week 2.”

The atmosphere was subdued a bit for both Smith and Hokes Bluff coach Mike Robertson following the game. All thoughts were with Robertson’s son, Brad Robertson, who is the team’s starting senior quarterback.

Brad Robertson injured his shoulder late in the game, and his dad said he had a bruised shoulder and he “might have a crack in there.”

“First thing’s first, the concern is for coach Rob’s son, Brad,” Smith said. “He’s such a fierce competitor and such a class kid. I’m happy for the win. I’m happy for Southside, but you don’t want to see that type of kid get injured in the first game of his senior year.”

Brad Robertson helped engineer two long scoring drives in the second half. The first came on the Eagles’ opening possession of the third quarter. 

After struggling to get anything going through the air in the first half, the Eagles went 65 yards in 13 plays — all runs — to tie the score at 7-7.

“I like to run the ball,” Mike Robertson said. “We’ve been looking pretty good throwing, but they were playing pass, so we went back to what we do best.”

The Panthers responded on their ensuing possession, going 70 yards before Coker scored his first touchdown of the night on a 14-yard run. Southside then faked the PAT and snapped to Brady Stephens, who jogged into the end zone past the unsuspecting Eagles defense to make it 15-7.

Hokes Bluff tied the game on its next possession, going 67 yards in 12 plays. Braydon Hawk rumbled into the end zone from the 2-yard line, and Brad Robertson rolled out andfound Tyler Gidley in the back of the end zone for the 2-point conversion to knot the game at 15.

Southside had plenty of opportunities for the go-ahead score but kept committing penalties. After a long pass from Southside quarterback Patrick Lister to Tony Gahffer, a late hit moved the ball back 15 yards to midfield. Then a delay of game moved the Panthers back 5 more yards before Lister broke free for a long run deep into Eagles territory. That run was called back, though, for a block in the back.

Southside then had two false start penalties to begin its next drive, which had started at the Hokes Bluff 34-yard line.

“We’ve got to cut down on our penalties,” Smith said. “We shot ourselves in the foot so many times. We did not play disciplined football tonight, and Hokes Bluff did. Because of that, it gave them an opportunity and a chance to win.”

Southside led 7-0 at the half, taking advantage of a Hokes Bluff turnover deep in Eagles territory. After Tyler Brown recovered the fumble on the Hokes Bluff 16, the Panthers needed just two plays to find the end zone. Lister sprinted 11 yards on a quarterback keeper, using all of his 6-foot-5 frame to stretch across the goal line.

“Patrick has to play within himself,” Smith said of his senior quarterback, who completed 7 of 16 passes for 124 yards and added 37 yards on the ground with the touchdown. “He’s got to do things that his athleticism allows him to do, but he has got to stay focused and take the opportunities when they arise.”

Neither team threatened until late in the first half, when Southside reached the 21-yard line. But Carter West's 38-yard field-goal attempt was wide left, though it had plenty of distance.

Mike Robertson said he was happy just to be down 7-0 at the break.

“I was thrilled to be down 7-0,” he said. “I told them we’re still going to win the game and I really thought we were.

“We didn’t play good early. We didn’t play like we were capable of playing. I thought we played better in the second half and did what we thought we were going to do.”