Panthers sling it around to defeat Stingrays

Stokes tosses four touchdowns, two to Henry

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Momentum continues to be on the side of the Nease Panthers as they went on the road and defeated Atlantic Coast 35-14 on Friday night.

With the win, the Panthers improved to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in District 3-7A.

The offensive highlights included four touchdown passes from Marcus Stokes, who was on target all night long.

He connected with three different receivers on his touchdown completions, including two to Dom Henry and one to Ryan McGough and Donavan Wilson.

“I love to spread the ball around,” Stokes said. “If they’re open, I’m going to try to get them the ball. Our receiving corps is one of the best.”

Senior Ben Bogle blocked a punt a couple of minutes into the game and the Panthers pounced as Stokes hit Wilson for a 21-yard touchdown on their first offensive snap to go up 7-0.

The Panthers took advantage of their red zone opportunities, as Taliek Golphin scored on an option pitch in the first quarter and Stokes rolled to his right and threw back to his left and found McGough to put them up 21-0 midway through the second quarter.

The Stingrays eventually got on the board with a touchdown drive, but the Panthers had the perfect answer and operated a two-minute drive that ended with Stokes launching a ball to Henry for a score as time expired to extend the halftime lead to 28-7.

“He was running a post corner, so I had to throw it across my body to the opposite side of the field,” Stokes said. “It was a hard throw, but I was able to make it happen, and Dom made a great catch.”

The touchdown proved crucial to making sure the Panthers kept control of the game.

“The play at the end of the half was just incredible,” Nease head coach Collin Drafts said. “I couldn’t be more excited for the way Marcus is playing, and Dom is really hitting his stride right now.”

The Panthers opened the second half with the ball and kept the drive alive with a successful fake punt on a direct snap to Wilson.

Extending the drive resulted in a Nease touchdown a couple of plays later when Stokes threw a strike to Henry over the middle of the field.

“As the games go on, we just keep getting better and better,” Henry said. “We just trust each other, we really trust the quarterback to throw it up and he trusts us to catch it. We’ve really built those relationships on and off the field.”

The Panthers’ defense only allowed 14 sporadic points by Atlantic Coast. Creed McClafferty had an interception and Chase Warner recovered a fumble.

Nease currently sits atop the district 3-7A standings and will go back on the road to face a non-district matchup against Yulee.  

“I told the players at halftime, ‘the better we get, the little bit crazier I get,’ because I know the potential,” Drafts said. “I’m excited because we’ve been working really hard and playing really well right now.”

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