Wildcats drop opener at Pell City

Published 1:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2011

Shelby County High School quarterback Ty Proctor eyes the Pell City defense in the Wildcats' season-opening loss Aug. 26. (Contributed/Dawn Rasco)

By RICKY RUSTON / For the Reporter

PELL CITY — The Shelby County High School Wildcats opened their 2011 campaign with a respectful loss on the road Aug. 26, falling 20-12 to the Pell City Panthers.

The Wildcats gave the Class 6A Panthers all they wanted in the season opener, probably more than what was expected.  When the final horn sounded, the Wildcats left St. Clair County with an identity that overshadowed the loss – grit, toughness and the will to compete. In his sixth year as head coach of the Wildcats, Ryan Herring is excited of what is to come.

“Unbelievable effort by our kids tonight.” Herring said after the game.  “I can’t say enough about the effort they put forth tonight, especially going against a senior heavy, 6A school like Pell City.  Our kids made everyone one of us proud.  I’m very proud of the way they played.”

“I am excited about what is to come and cannot wait till Sunday to start working on Center Point,” he added.

The season had kicked off, the Panthers spread the field wide in formation.  The second possession in, Denzel Williams nailed the Panther quarterback for a 10-yard loss on one play and caused a fumble on the next to give the ball to the Cats at their own 30-yard line.

The first quarter concluded with an exchange of additional interceptions from both offenses without a score.

After a fourth down stop by the Wildcat defense, Williams hit stride on a counter play up the middle for a 79-yard touchdown scamper to put the visitors out to the early lead.  With the failed field goal attempt, the Cats held the 6-0 lead.  Clad in the road whites, the traditional Wildcat veer running attack was alive and well.

The Panthers countered on the ensuing possession on a double reverse around left end from the 43-yard yard line.  Their longest rush of the night and point after attempt gave the black and gold the 7-6 lead as intermission approached.

As time trickled away in the second quarter, facing 4th and two from the Panther 30-yard line, the trusty half-back pass play was called and perfectly executed.  Evan McNeal connected with Williams who pranced in for the score.  Following a failed 2-point conversion attempt, the Wildcats would take a 12-7 lead.

A ball kicked out of bounds and a pass happy offense is the ideal setup for a unit looking to score before the half.  It took the Panther offense 55 seconds to march from their own 35-yard line to the endzone.  A 46-yard touchdown toss and missed extra point gave the Panthers the 13-12 lead going into the half.

The opening of the second half was given to the Wildcats, but was quickly taken away as a ball slips through the hands of a Wildcat and serves an interception on a platter to an awaiting Panther defender.  Opportunity lost.

Set up at the Wildcat 40-yard line, the Panthers were headed in for another score.  First and goal from the 4-yard find the balls on the turf again and recovered by the Wildcats.  Opportunity gained, but deep in enemy territory.

Following a Panther sack, the Wildcats were wedged between the 1-yard line and the goal line to deliver a punt to their own 37-yard line.  Five plays later, a tunnel screen from the Wildcat 6-yard line delivered a score to widen the lead to 20-12.

That is where final count stood as the two squads traded punts in the 4th quarter and after a surging Wildcat offense was stopped on a 4th and eight from the Panther 36-yard line as seconds remained.

The Panthers spread formation attack tallied 350 total yards on the night, but the inconsistencies almost were costly for the veteran squad.  If there are powers in numbers, it prevailed Friday night as the Wildcats eventually succumbed to the fresh bodies being transitioned on and off the field by the Panthers.

Offensively, the Wildcats anted up 284 yards of total offense on the night; 199 yards on the ground. Williams collected 100 yards rushing and accounting for two scores.

The Wildcats open region play next Friday as they travel to take on the Center Point Eagles.