Lions rally late to defeat Panthers

Beasley TD in fourth quarter lifts Ennis to 2-0 headed into rivalry game

Don Hullett
Daily Light correspondent
Ennis team captains Jackson Gilkey (12), Dee Johnson (2), Jace Berry (4) and Eric Gonzalez (21) line up for the coin toss before Friday night's game against Keller Fossil Ridge. The Lions won, 36-29.

ENNIS — The Keller Fossil Ridge Panthers rode into Ennis on Friday night, Sept. 3, to take on the Lions and gave the home team a run for their money in the game, but fell just short when EHS scored with 2:52 to go in the game to pull out a 36-29 thriller.

In the back and forth game, the Lions defense once again stopped the opposition when the game was on the line. The “E” defense had shown signs of improvement after yielding 42 points last week to a solid Red Oak team and it used lessons learned to shut down the Panthers when the game was in jeopardy in this contest.

Fossil Ridge won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. Ennis took the opening kickoff and attempted a pass that was picked off. The Panthers set up on offense at the Lions’ 42-yard line and then successfully put together an 11-play drive that covered that 42 yards and finished with a 12-yard run to the end zone by standout running back Landen Chambers. Andrew Stohlman added the extra point to make it 7-0 in favor of the visitors.

The Lions took the ensuing kickoff and set up shop at their own 37. The offense settled down and moved the ball down with a combination of runs and passes. On the second play of the drive senior Dee Johnson took the hand off and sprinted to the Panthers 28. From there it was a pass from junior quarterback Jackson Gilkey to freshman Gracen Harris that covered the last 15 yards into the end zone and following the extra point by Allan Hernandez, the game was tied up at 7-7.

Fossil Ridge came right back and marched down the field with quarterback Kevin Punte finding pay dirt after escaping containment around the right end and sprinting 25 yards, extra point by Stohlman making the score now 14-7 going into quarter number 2.

After the Panthers were unable to move they punted and Ennis took over on the 37 yard line in their end of the field. It took 5 plays to cover the 63 yards and when Dee Johnson gashed the Panthers defense right up the middle for 37 yards the game was tied at 14 with 8 minutes left in the second frame.

After a flurry of not much, both teams punted the ball to each other. The Lions took over at the Panthers 46 and moved the final 41 yards when Gilkey once again hooked up with Harris, this time for 41 yards for the score. Afterwards, Hernandez tacked on the extra point and Ennis had its first lead of the night at 21-14. That is the way the game stood as both teams headed to the locker rooms as the first half ended.

Fossil Ridge took the second half kickoff and proceeded to march the ball down the field in 17 plays that covered 74 yards. That drive was capped off when Chambers powered his way into the end zone, and with Stohlman’s kick, the score was again tied.

Not to be outdone, the Lions received the kick off and mounted their own time-eating drive when they took over on their 23 yard line and scored with 52 seconds to go in the quarter when Senior Devion Beasley sprinted into the end zone from 2 yards out. Hernandez added the point after to put the Lions ahead, once again, going into the fourth quarter.

Ennis opened the quarter with the ball after the Panthers had been forced to punt and turned the ball back over to the Panthers when Gilkey fumbled the ball. It took Fossil Ridge 13 plays that covered 60 yards and consumed over half of the quarter. Chambers got his third touchdown of the night from 14 yards and Punte ran the extra point for addition 2 points to give the Panthers the lead at 29-28 with a little over 5 minutes to go in the game.

Ennis started the game-winning drive on their own 24 and with the very real possibility of heading into the Battle of 287 next week with a 1-1 record, however, the Lions bowed their necks and were not going to be stopped as they put together an impressive drive of 7 plays that covered 76 yards and ended when Beasley once again scored, this time from 14 yards out. Beasley then placed the cherry on the top of the exciting comeback drive when he plunged in with the 2 point conversion.

The Panthers had one last chance, but the Ennis defense, just like last week, stood strong and prevented the Panthers from scoring when they intercepted a pass and then were able to run out the clock.

On the night Fossil Ridge had 310 yards total offense (145 passing and 195 rushing) while Ennis had 406 total yards (172 passing and 234 rushing). For the Panthers quarterback Kevin Punte was 9 out of 18 with 15 yards passing and 1 interception. Running back Landen Chambers had 23 carries for 107 yards and 3 touchdowns. Punte also had 13 carries for 81 yards and 1 touchdown. Receiver Daniel Cobb had 5 catches for 64 yards.

Ennis’ Gilkey was 12 of 22 for 172 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The ground attack was led once again by Johnson with 17 touches for 153 yards and 1 TD, Beasley carried 4 times for 29 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the receiving end, young Harris continued to impress with 7 catches for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns.

The Lions (2-0) will travel to Waxahachie to take on the Indians (2-0), in what will be the 100th meeting between these 2 teams – and the always exciting match-up is known as the “Battle of 287”. Game time with be 7:30 p.m. at Lumpkins Stadium on Friday.