Road warriors

Panthers pile up playoff road wins, Buchholz up next

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Going on the road is tough to do, especially when playing the top teams in the state, but Nease football continues to not let that stand in their way.

The Panthers earned a 24-19 second round victory against Class 7A Region 1 No. 3 seed Niceville Nov. 19, for their second straight road playoff win in as many weeks.

They defeated No. 2-seeded Port Orange Spruce Creek the week prior.

Despite Niceville (10-2) being a lower seed, the win is arguably even more impressive than their first round triumph because of the mileage they had to travel.

The Panthers (9-3) had to take the five-plus hour bus trip to Niceville, which also included losing an hour of time due to going from the eastern to central time zone.

All this before football could even be played, but none of it seemed to have an affect on the Panthers, who continue to show their moxie and prove to everyone that they belong in the conversation with the best in the state.

Just like the week before, the Panthers found themselves in a close game and needed a late score to help secure the deal and got it from the legs of Marcus Stokes who ran for a touchdown to give Nease a 24-17 lead with about five minutes to play.

The defense, which recovered a fumble to set up Stokes’ late score, took over from there and forced a turnover on downs to halt a Niceville drive that was beginning to sniff the red zone at the Panther 28-yard line.

Fourteen points were scored off turnovers by the Panthers, including the first points of the contest when Stokes hit Dom Henry from eight yards out following a Donavan Wilson interception early in the second quarter.

Three turnovers were forced by the defense on the night.

Last week’s hero Cannon Kimball buried a 35-yard field goal, and the game was tied at 10-all at halftime.

The Panthers trailed 17-10 heading into the fourth quarter, but that Eagles’ lead was short lived as Taliek Golphin punched in a four-yard rushing score to knot the game back up early in the final quarter.

With the win, the Panthers move on to the third round of the 7A playoffs and will face top seed Gainesville Buchholz (11-1), once again on the road.

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