Southside tops Arab 45-25

Southside’s Aleric Williams tries to break the tackle of Arab’s Kirk Johnson (5) and John David Henderson (9) during Friday’s Class 5A, Region 7 game at Barney Hood Stadium in Southside. (Photo by Dave Hyatt | Gadsden Times)


SOUTHSIDE — With a 45-25 win over Class 5A, Region 7 foe Arab, the Southside Panthers improved to 6-0 for the first time since 1993.

The win put Southside, who is 4-0 in region play, in the driver’s seat for the region championship as a result of Etowah’s 24-20 defeat at the hands of Scottsboro.

However, Panthers’ coach Ron Daugherty refused to think that far ahead.

“I think we’re going to make our corrections from this game and start thinking about Boaz,” he said of Southside’s opponent for Week 7.

He preferred to focus on his team’s first win over the Knights (1-5, 1-3) in five years.

The tide turned when, with the score knotted at 10, Southside scored three touchdowns in the final 4:12 of the first half.

“The biggest thing was our kids,” Daugherty said. “Our kids kept battling. We didn’t make a lot of adjustments, we just told them to keep getting on them and blocking and keep running the ball hard. Good things happen when you keep on battling.”

The momentum began to shift when Blake Devine broke free for a 63-yard touchdown run with 4:12 left in the first half to give the Panthers a 17-10 lead. Devine finished the game with 146 yards rushing on 12 carries to go with a 31-yard touchdown grab. His fellow wing back, Aleric Williams, toted it eight times for 124 yards.

“We just tried to take what was there,” Daugherty said. “Arab is so strong up the middle defensively, so we felt like we might have an advantage getting the ball out of there. I’m real proud of how they did this week. They carried out their fakes better than last week. They’re starting to understand that even if the play is going to the other side, they still have a job to do.”

On the ensuing drive, Arab drove deep into Southside territory, but Ryan Buford overthrew his receiver and the ball fell into the hands of the Panthers’ Jason Gahafer. The junior returned the ball all the way for an 86-yard touchdown with 2:07 left in the second quarter to push the lead to 24-10.

Buford again was intercepted on the next drive, as Hunter Armstrong picked him off around midfield and brought it down to the Knights’ 19. Two plays later, Holt Keeling scored on a 12-yard scamper to give the Panthers a 31-10 edge with :44 left in the half. Arab never got within two touchdowns again.

“They (Arab) are about three or four plays from being 5-1, so I was real proud of the way our kids responded, Daugherty said.”

Arab’s Jacob Lynch and Southside’s Carter West traded field goals for the only points of the first quarter.

The Panthers put together an eight play, 79-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard scoring plunge by Dantley Coker to go up 10-3 with 8:08 left in the second. Arab countered with an eight play drive of its own, marching 56 yards until Buford scored from 2 yards out to tied it at 10 before Southside took over.

The Knights closed the gap to 31-17 with a 10-play drive in the third. James Crawford’s 2-yard touchdown with 3:53 left in the quarter gave Arab a brief shot of hope, only to see Southside take it away with a nine-play, 67-yard drive that was finished off with the only pass of the night by the Panthers. Grey Daugherty found Devine as time ran out in the third to give the Panthers a 38-17 lead.

If that drive didn’t finish off the Knights’ chances of winning, an interception of Buford by Chance Usry on the next possession did. After the turnover, Devine scored on a 20-yard run to extend the lead to 45-17. Backup quarterback Daulton Hyatt threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Robertson, then Hyatt ran in the two-pointer to make the final score. 

Coker rushed for 64 yards on 18 carries for Southside. Dustin McWhorter had an interception on defense.

 Easton Anderson led the Knights with 58 yards on 13 carries.

The Panthers visit the Pirates on Friday in region play.