CLEVELAND, Ala. — Locust Fork rallied from last Friday’s loss by defeating the homestanding Cleveland Panthers 29-24.
The Hornet defense came up with two big goal line stands inside the Hornet 5-yard line, one of them in the final two minutes of the game to clinch the victory.
Cleveland struck first as Panther running back Trevor Yates ran 77 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter. Locust Fork answered shortly thereafter, as running back Josh Tawbush ran 18 yards for a touchdown with 4:37 remaining in the opening period of play.
Cleveland quarterback Peyton Gilliland responded with a 20-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers back on top 14-7 after one quarter.
Locust Fork would do all of the scoring in the second period. Quarterback Kyle Hornbuckle found Tawbush for a 23-yard scoring pass, but Hornbuckle’s point after was blocked, leaving the Panthers up 14-13.
But the Hornet defense, led by Isaiah Kirkley, Moses Mercado, and Joey Robinette, held the Panthers in check on the next possession. That gave the Hornet offense an opportunity to move close enough for Hornbuckle to kick a 43-yard field goal. The Hornets led 16-14 at halftime.
(Hornbuckle's field goal was unofficially the longest in Locust Fork football history, pending a closer check of the record book.)
In the third period, Panther kicker Leon Doelle kicked a 22-yard field goal to put Cleveland ahead at 17-16 with 8:44 left in the quarter.
But it only took 15 seconds for the Hornets to retake the lead, as Tawbush took the ensuing Panther kickoff and returned it 88 yards for a touchdown. Hornbuckle missed the extra point, but the Hornets had the lead at 22-17.
Cleveland then drove to a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line but the Hornet defense hunkered down, and facing a fourth-and-goal from the 1, Panther running back Yates was knocked down for no gain by the combo of Hunter Gilliland and Dustin McCay to end the threat.