Field) - The Jerseyville Panthers opened their 2003 season in dramatic
fashion as they held off the Springfield Senators 19-12 at Memorial field.
Jerseyville took advantage of six Senator turnovers including four fumbles
and two interceptions.
The Panthers started the game right were they left off last year when
Junior QB Mitch Watkins connected on the first two plays from scrimmage.
The first to Justin Whittman for 37 yards followed by a deflected pass
that Jason Stekel brought down. However the Springfield defense halted
the drive when another deflected Watkins toss was intercepted.
Jerseyville finally broke out on top when RB Jeremy Clay scored on a seven
yard touchdown run with 2:41 remaining in the first half. Springfield
did not waste any time in the second half as they marched down the field
on their first possession. The Senators evened the score at 7-7 when QB
Ronte Reese marched down 22 yards for the equalizer. The drive only took
2:36, and shifted the momentum quickly back to the Senators. But just
when the Panthers offense seemed to be stalled, they were able to capitalize,
when Springfield returner De'Andre Rodgers fumbled a punt at his own 21
yard line. Jerseyville wasted no time in taking advantage of the mistake
as Jeremy Clay scampered 21 yards on the first play for the score and
a 13-7 Panther lead.
In the 4th quarter, Jerseyville scored again when Watkins fired a blistering
pass that Brian Schell brought down in heavy Senator traffic. Watkins
looked composed under pressure on the fourth and goal play from 10 yards
out. That gave the Panthers a commanding 19-7 lead . However Springfield
would not roll over and with just 2:28 left, Reese found his big 6'5"
receiver Noah Beveridge over the middle for a two yard touchdown pass.
After Jerseyville failed to run the clock out in the last two minutes,
the Senators got one last chance, however a strong punt by Watkins forced
Springfield to start inside their own 30 yard line. The Senators were
able to advance the ball to near midfield, however Jeremy Clay came up
huge one more time as he got his second interception with just under one
minutes to play.
Jerseyville Star of the game: Jeremy Clay and Mitch Watkins
Both Clay and Watkins started their first varsity game on Friday in style.
Clay rushed for 102 yards on 11 carries, caught one pass for 5 yards and
had 2 interceptions. Watkins was 8 of 24 for 134 yards and 1 touchdown,
he also rushed for 33 yards on eight carries. Watkins also stepped up
with some clutch punting when Panther kicker Chris Tepen suffered an injury
early in the game.