Nease traded interceptions late in the game with St. Augustine and that proved to be the difference in a 28-21 loss for the Panthers against the Yellow Jackets on Friday night.
With the clocking running late in the fourth quarter and the Yellow Jackets having success moving the ball on the ground, they took to the air and the Panthers defense made them pay by forcing a turnover.
It was a pair of seniors that made the play happen, as Chase Warner deflected a screen pass and Zach Harmon ran under it to set up the offense at the Jackets’ 45-yard line with about two minutes to play.
“It shows the resilience and the heart of this group,” Harmon said. “A lot of us have been playing together for a long time, and we just enjoy playing for each other.”
But just as the momentum seemed to shift back in the Panthers’ favor, two plays later a pass of their own was deflected and picked off to regain possession for the Yellow Jackets, who ran out the clock from there.
“At the end of the day, we had opportunities but weren’t able to get it done,” Nease head coach Collin Drafts said. “It just wasn’t in the cards for us tonight. We’ll learn from it and move forward.”
Nease jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead as the offense was rolling early, as Marcus Stokes threw a pair of first quarter touchdown passes to Gavin Gmeiner (15 yards) and Dom Henry (24 yards), respectively.
“The first quarter was pitch-and-catch and we came out hot,” Drafts said. “We’ve just got to find a way on offense to be consistent, because right now it’s just too hot and cold.”
However, the Yellow Jackets responded and answered with a pair of scores of their own to tie the game at 14-all heading into halftime.
The back-and-forth battle continued in the second half, as Nease answered a St. Augustine score with a nice drive punctuated by a creative play call where Dom Henry received a handoff and wound up throwing a two-yard touchdown pass to Stokes.
It was different seeing those two connect in reverse order but chalk it up as another time the duo combined to find the end zone.
The Panthers put their undefeated record in district play to the test when they face Fletcher on the road at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 15.