CLEVELAND, Ala. —
Early in the fourth quarter, Locust Fork extended their lead as Hornbuckle hooked up with Tawbush for a 46-yard touchdown with 11:25 left in the game.
The Panthers were down but not out, as they took the kickoff and marched to a touchdown. Gilliland found receiver Kyle Blackwood for a 20-yard scoring pass a with 8:11 left in the game.
After stopping the Hornet offense, Cleveland drove to a first-and-goal from the Locust Fork 6-yard line, but a false start penalty moved them back five yards. Three running plays left the Panthers facing fourth and goal from the 2 with 1:22 left in the contest. Gilliland tried to run the ball, but slipped as Hornet defenders converged on him forcing a 2-yard loss and a turnover on downs.
Locust Fork tried to run out the clock, but the Panthers used their time outs wisely and had the Hornets facing fourth and one at their own 13-yard line with 21 seconds to go. The Hornets lined up as if they were going to go for the first down instead of punting, and with Hornbuckle using a hard snap count, they managed to get Cleveland to jump offside which gave Locust Fork the first down and the game.
Tawbush (92 yards) and Micah Stephens (75 yards) shouldered most of the Hornet running game with each getting 10 carries. Hornbuckle finished the night completing 7-of-15 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, Robinette led the way with 11 tackles while Isaiah Kirkley added nine. Shiloh Biles and Nick Long had eight stops each.
The win gave the Hornets (6-4) their first winning season since 2002, and made coach Chris Musso the first Locust Fork head football coach to finish his first season as head coach with a winning record since Gary Pate’s team went 10-2 in his first season way back in 1974. It was also the Hornets' third consecutive victory over Cleveland (5-5).