Panthers fend off Blazers

September 24, 2005|by BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

CLEAR SPRING - When the Hancock football team took the field against backyard rival Clear Spring on Friday night, the No. 88 was in the hearts and on the helmets of every Hancock player.

The untimely injury to senior standout Jordan Wolford was a rallying point for the Panthers a week ago, and against the Blazers, Hancock coach John Blake spent the evening reminding his players of a promise they had made.

Senior Jaret Trail rushed 18 times for 102 yards and stunned the crowd by opening the second half with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as Hancock (2-1) held on to defeat Clear Spring 22-16 in a game marred by more than two dozen penalties.

For the Blazers - fresh off their first varsity victory - and coach John Wilson, the game served as a measuring stick to test just how far his team has come.


For the Panthers, the game marked the return of Wolford, albeit in a cast and on crutches, to the sidelines.

Emotions ran high on both sides of the field.

"It may not carry us through the whole year, but for tonight, it gave us something to hang onto when things got tough," Blake said of Wolford's situation.

The word "tough" was an understatement, as Washington County's two smallest high schools teed off on each other in a game that took more than three hours to complete and had eight personal fouls.

"No one likes penalties, especially when they are on your team," Wilson said. "But I thought both teams played with intensity and heart. They left it out there."

Clear Spring scored the first touchdown on a rollout pass from senior Tyler Braithwaite to junior Jesse Jarvis.

The Panthers came right back less than two minutes later, as Trail broke loose on the left side, powered through two tacklers and raced to the endzone for a 54-yard score. Trail converted the two-point conversion run and Hancock took an 8-7 lead into the second quarter.

"At that point, I thought we were beginning to get a handle, but Clear Spring moved the ball on us," Blake said.

Jon Clark's 46-yard TD pass to Dylan Shives, followed by another Trail conversion run, made it 16-7.

The Blazers put themselves in position to score with their defense, as Adam Penwell fell on an errant fumble at the Panthers 9-yard line. But Hancock's goal-line stand forced Clear Spring to settle for Anthony Socks' 17-yard field goal to make it 16-10

"That was like a win there," Blake said of the stand. "I mean, it's simple math. You give up six or three?"

Trail's touchdown return made it 22-10. Braithwaite's touchdown pass to Anthony Socks brought the Blazers within six points, but penalties, a dropped pass and a game-ending interception by junior linebacker Kaleb Trail sealed Hancock's victory.

"This is going to be a great rivalry," Wilson said. "These two schools being close like this and everyone knowing everyone else, I see this as great for high school football around here."

"I'm just glad to be getting out of here with a win," Blake said.

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