All that Antonio Boyd asked from his team was everything that it had, from its mind, to its soul, to its chinstrap.
On Saturday afternoon in the first round of the Recreation League football playoffs, Boyd’s team gave him 24 minutes of domination. Boyd’s football boys, the Falcons, flew past the Panthers, 28-6, in the postseason matchup in Hogansville.
“We were blocking hard and hitting hard. We were playing to win, and we were working together. This is the playoffs – there’s a winner go home mentality,” said Boyd, the head coach of the Falcons.
They did not have to turn in their uniforms on this day. In a traditional sense, the Falcons won and advanced in the Youth League playoff bracket. The Falcons stretched their football record to 4-2, and they beat a good Panthers team.
“We blocked and ran the ball. We had some good plays,” said Falcons tailback Jordan King.
He was ready for some playoff football in the 9 to 10-year-old league. King scored more points than the Panthers did. King rushed for 62 yards on five carries. He scored two touchdowns, and he tacked on three-twopoint conversion kicks.
King ran for two scores on touchdown jaunts of 12 yards in the first quarter and eight yards in the third period. The Falcons never got away from who they are – a running football team with power and speed.
“We were motivated, and we knew what to do,” said Falcons quarterback Kory Jackson.
He did more than smile and get out of the way. Jackson did not wait for someone else to make a play. Jackson had a few answers of his own. He scored a pair of touchdowns in the first half, one on a 7yard run and another on a 6yard dash to the endzone. The Falcons got off to a torrid start in the playoff game with leads of 14-0 at the end of the first stanza and 22-6 at halftime.
“We played hard on defense, and we put up some scores (on offense). We played smart, and we’re a good team,” said Boyd.
The Falcons defense refused to back off. All that the Falcons gave up were four first downs, one touchdown and 95 yards. The Panthers had some yeoman duty trying to consistently move the ball against a surly Falcons defense. The Red Birds were in a hitting mood with nose tackle Tyrone Fitten, defensive tackle Tzion Smith, cornerback Chad Williams and safety Antavius Reeves.
Fitten not only tackled well and often, he also recovered a Panthers fumble in the first quarter. The Falcons had good field position most of the afternoon, courtesy of the defense.
The Panthers got a few breaks, too, but they scored just one touchdown. Jonathan Freeman, the Panthers quarterback, made the most of a tough game with 68 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Freeman met the enemy, and it was the Falcons.
“We took some hits. We made some tackles, and we weren’t afraid,” said Freeman.
The Panthers also came to play. The Panthers rushed for 83 yards on the afternoon and passed for another 12 yards. Freeman lofted a perfect spiral to tight end Desmon Cunningham for a 12-yard touchdown pass with 3:20 left in the first half.
That score pulled the Panthers to within eight points of the Falcons at 14-6. But the rest of the game went to the Red Birds. The Falcons scored the final 14 points of the game.
The Panthers watched their season end. They had mixed feelings and sore bones. They also had a final record of 15. But there’s more to football than wins and losses.
“We had some fun. We tried our best, and we learned about sportsmanship (this season),” said Panthers nose tackle Kentavian Owens.
Coach DeAngelo Johnson gave Owens and the Panthers a steady diet of fundamentals this year. The Panthers didn’t win the Recreation League championship, but they did some growing up.
“We played our hearts out. We stuck with it. These boys learned some concepts of the game,” said Johnson.
The Panthers will try it again next season.
Chris Fernsler Sports Writer