CASTROVILLE— No one on Tivy’s sideline said anything profound to help the Antlers overcome their second-half struggles.
The Antlers found themselves in unfamiliar territory on Friday night against Medina Valley: It was a one-possession game in the fourth quarter for the first time since Sept. 24. The Panthers began the fourth quarter with the ball near midfield, threatening to tie the game with a touch.
The Antlers had committed countless mistakes to fuel the Panthers’ upset bid. But they didn’t turn things around in the final quarter because a player gave a rousing speech, nor because Tivy’s coaches made any magical adjustments. It was much simpler than that. The offense just had to started executing plays. The defense needed to relax and trust the game plan.
“We just needed to calm down and play the game we know how to play,” senior linebacker Regan Robertson said.
And they did just that in the fourth quarter. Tivy’s defense forced a stop on fourth-and-7. Senior Trapper Pannell promptly orchestrated a four-play, 45-yard touchdown drive. And the No. 9 Antlers continued dominating in the fourth quarter to earn a 35-14 victory over Medina Valley to finish undefeated in District 14-5A Div. II play for the second-straight season. They will host the East View Patriots in the bi-district round at Antler Stadium.
“The kids played hard,” Tivy coach David Jones. “We didn’t play as well on offense in the third quarter as we needed to. But when we had chances to put points on the board and open the lead up, we did that. So, I am proud of that.”
“Medina Valley has always been tough. They are a bunch of hard-nosed kids who play hard. We knew their front guys on defense were good, and we were going to have trouble with them. We knew that coming in. We lived up to what they thought they were going to be. … They are a tough group of kids.”
And those same kids gave Tivy’s offense some problems in the first half. For the first time this season, Pannell played every possession at quarterback, completing 19 of 30 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns while tossing two interceptions. Senior Brooks McCoy led Tivy’s receiving corps with six receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers (5-5), however, held the Antlers (9-1) to their lowest first-half scoring output (14) since Sept. 7 against Fredericksburg.
Tivy’s defense, however, still ensured the Antlers entered halftime with a lead. Senior defensive end Gonzalo snagged his first career interception on a deflection off a Medina Valley receiver’s helmet and returned it 44 yards to the Panthers’ 11-yard line to set up Tivy’s first touchdown (a Pannell four-yard touchdown). After the Panthers tied the game with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, Pannell connected with senior Colten Drake for a 5-yard touchdown to help Tivy regain the lead.
But the Antlers imploded in the third. The second half began with Medina Valley recovering an onside kick. Two possessions later, Tivy’s punter Jared Zirkel couldn’t coral a high snap and Medina Valley recovered at Tivy’s 1. Panthers running back James Gipson plunged into the end zone one-play later to tie the game. Pannell responded with a 23-yard touchdown to Fisher Middleton to give Tivy a 21-14 lead, but also threw two interceptions in the third quarter to keep Medina Valley’s upset hopes alive.
But Pannell rebounded in the fourth. After the defense’s fourth-down stand, Pannell uncorked another 22-yard pass to Middleton. Senior linebacker Logan Green pounced on a botched snap to give Tivy the ball at the 34-yard line. Four plays later, Pannell threaded a 15-yard pass to Brooks McCoy on a slant to punctuate the win.
“We hadn’t seen that defense a whole lot this year,” Pannell said. “We didn’t execute very well in the first half. We were more prepared and executed our plays in the second half.”
The Antlers are hoping to execute for an entire game next Friday. During last year’s bi-district round, they rallied from a 49-28 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Bastrop, 63-62, in double overtime. It was one of the most memorable games in Tivy history, but the Antlers are obviously hoping to avoid another 21-point deficit this season.
“We got to get ready to play a real good game,” Jones said. “They are going to be tough.”
Tivy— Pannell 4-yard touchdown run, 5:50
Medina Valley— Gipson 3-yard run, 11:13
Tivy— Pannell 5-yard pass to Drake, 5:27
Medina Valley— Gipson 1-yard run, 8:55
Tivy— Pannell 23-yard pass to Middleton, 4:27
Tivy--Pannell 22-yard pass to Middleton, 10:12
Tivy— Pannell 15-yard pass to McCoy, 7:18
First downs: Tivy 15, Medina Valley 14
Completions-attempts-ints: Tivy 19-30-2, Medina Valley 12-26-2
Passing Yards: Tivy 286, Medina Valley 135
Rushing Yards-attempts: Tivy 23-47, Medina Valley 34-101
Total Yards: Tivy 333, Medina Valley 236
Punting attempts-average distance: Tivy 1-32, Medina Valley 6-33.7
Third down conversions: Tivy 6-11, Medina Valley 4/14
Tivy— Middleton 9-25, Ryan Maberry 3-14, Pannell 8-13, J.D Rodriguez 2-8
Medina Valley— Gipson 17-68, Marsh 10-18, Morales 3-11, Snider 1-2, Pardo 2-1, Clendenin 1-1
Tivy— Pannell 19-30-2 for 286,
Medina Valley— Marsh 11-24-2 for 128, Clendenin 1-2 for 7 yards
Tivy— McCoy 6-153, Miears 5-54, Middleton 3-51, Drake 2-10
Medina Valley— Haney 5-59, Doyon 4-43, Gipson 1-14, Vogel 1-12, Morales 1-7