Antlers cap loop play undefeated, look to playoffs - Sports

Antlers cap loop play undefeated, look to playoffs

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Posted: Saturday, November 9, 2019 2:33 am

CASTROVILLE – The Tivy defense continued to make big plays, holding a competitive Medina Valley team at bay while the Antler offense found its rhythm Friday night at Panther Stadium, closing out regular season play for both teams.

Tivy eventually cruised to a 35-14 win and a second consecutive undefeated District 14-5A championship, but a 14-7 halftime score left Antler fans a little nervous.

“We didn’t play as good on offense again in the third quarter as we needed to, but when we had a chance to put points on the board and open the lead up we did, so I’m proud of that,” Coach David Jones said. “Medina Valley has always been tough. They play hard and we knew their guys on defense were going to be good and we were going to have trouble. We knew that going in.”

After winning the toss, Tivy deferred to Medina Valley to receive and the Antler defense held the Panthers to three snaps before forcing a punt. Tivy couldn’t convert the possession to points and the ball went over on downs.

As Medina Valley quarterback Charles Marsh IV looked to gain some traction, Antler senior defensive end Gonzalo Hernandez stepped in front of a deep pass for a pick and returned the ball 41 yards, landing at the Panther 11 yard line and putting the ball back in Tivy’s hands.

“That was my first interception of my whole career,” Hernandez said. “As a defensive end, it’s very rare to get an interception. I always tell the guys ‘One day it’s going to happen.’ and today it did. I was just super excited and I’m glad that tonight, in my last regular season game, I got to do that.”

Hernandez’ efforts set up Tivy’s first touchdown of the night when quarterback Trapper Pannell scampered in from four yards out to score with 5:50 remaining in the first quarter. Jared Zirkel made good on the extra point kick to give the Antlers a 7-0 lead.

After only 47 seconds of play in the second quarter, Medina Valley knotted to score with a two-yard touchdown run by James Gipson. With a successful point after attempt, the score was tied 7-7.

The Antlers found themselves in scoring position numerous times, but could not capitalize on the field position, including a 56-yard reception by Brooks McCoy from Pannell that placed the ball on the Panther 25 yardline. After three attempts at a touchdown, Jones summoned the field goal team, but Zirkel's 40-yard attempt failed and Medina Valley was in control of the ball once more.

The Tivy defense, once again, allowed limited yardage, forcing the Panthers to punt. From the Antlers own 44 yardline, Pannell pieced together a series of plays, including a 27-yard pass to Cole Miears, that ended with a five-yard touchdown toss to Colten Drake with 5:27 remaining in the half.

The efficiency of the Tivy defense was significant in the first half, with the entire squad producing for the team. From the linemen to the secondary, the Antlers put up a wall and made the necessary stops.

“We definitely play for each other,” Cole Mixon, Tivy linebacker who currently leads the team in tackles, said. “All of us try so hard and want to get in there and do the job.”

Mixon said he may be leading in tackles, but said the stats only reflect the job of his teammates.

“It all starts with the defensive line,” Mixon said. “They are doing their job and I’m just in the right places.”

Returning to action in the second half, Tivy was set to receive the kickoff, but the Panthers wanted the ball back and were able to pounce on an onside kick to steal the possession and bring the Antler defense back on the field, who denied Medina Valley once again.

The Antler offense struggled on their next possession and were forced to punt, but a miscue on the snap resulted in the Panthers taking possession on Tivy’s 1 yardline. This time they did not miss the opportunity to put points on the board and Gipson pushed his way across the goal line at the 8:55 mark in the third quarter. The extra point kick was good and the score was tied once again at 14-14.

After an Antler turnover gave the Panthers another shot at the ball, Tivy’s defense refused to allow a momentum-builder.

Big plays by Micah Harrison and Race Risinger forced a third down and a Marsh pass attempt, which Tivy’s Coleson Abel was all too happy to receive for his fifth interception on the season.

“I tried to make the play and get the turnover, that’s crucial to the game,” Abel said. “It was a big turning point and gave our offense a little boost so they could go down and score. They (Medina Valley) are a good team and very competitive. They go all out, just like we do, and when you get to two teams that play hard like that it’s going to go back and forth.”

Abel’s pick gave the Antlers the ball on their own 32 yardline. McCoy hauled in a 43-yard Pannell pass, which set up Fisher Middleton to receive a 23-yard toss from Pannell for a touchdown with 4:27 remaining in the third quarter. Zirkel split the uprights to give Tivy back the lead at 21-14.

Pannell led the offense to three touchdowns in the second half.

Middleton also scored in the fourth quarter at the 10:12 mark on a 23-yard pass and McCoy, who had six catches for 155 yards on the night, scored his only touchdown of the game and the last for either team with 7:18 remaining on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Pannell.

McCoy continues to amaze his teammates and fans with spectacular receptions. His success has also gotten the attention of competition scouts, which has resulted in significant coverage on the field.

“We have really good receivers across the board, but sometimes they do play a little more coverage on me and if they are going to double team me, that means someone else is open,” McCoy said. “We have three other receivers who very talented and will catch the ball.”

But McCoy is always ready for a pass, regardless of how many defenders on on him.

“The main thing is, Trapper reads the coverage and we kind of give each other a signal and he knows,” McCoy said. “Just like on that long ball … I had a guy on me and we looked at each other and he just knew I was going to go vertical.”

Despite what appeared to be a slow start, Pannell still threw for 290 yards, completing 10 of 30 passes for four touchdowns.

Solid performances were also turned in by Cole Miears, who caught five passes for 54 yards and Middleton, who finished with two touchdowns on three catches for 52 yards.

“Cole (Miears) made some really good plays for us on catches and runs and once we started throwing and catching in the second half, we moved the chains and scored,” Jones said. “We did things the right way the second half of the third quarter and the fourth and it’s just those moments in between we have to correct.”

Looking ahead to Friday night’s Class 5A bi-district matchup with Georgetown East View, Jones said he will make adjustments where needed and get his team prepared.

“We have to get ready to play a really good game Friday night,” Jones said. “They’re (Georgetown) going to be tough. They’re coming from a really good district and they’ve played the best teams over there really, really close and we have to do a really great job of getting our kids ready to play a great ballgame.”

The Antlers finish their regular season with a 7-0 District 14-5A record and are 9-1 on the season. They will host Georgetown East View at Antler Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m.

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