E.A. Sports Today

Wellborn waits word

Panthers ready to abide to any fallout from Friday’s post-game melee; Smith “worried”

Wellborn coach Jeff Smith (L) talks things over with Jake Thrasher during the fourth quarter of Friday night's playoff victory. (Photo by Greg McWilliams)

Wellborn coach Jeff Smith (L) talks things over with Jake Thrasher during the fourth quarter of Friday night’s playoff victory. (Photo by Greg McWilliams)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The Wellborn football team is about to play its most important game in nearly two decades, but before the week begins it must wait out some unpleasant business related to the end of Friday night’s win that could impact its preparation.

The Panthers (8-3) beat Oakman 24-23 on Dakota King’s 25-yard field goal in the closing seconds and are scheduled to host top-ranked Madison Academy (11-1) in a Class 3A quarterfinal Friday night. It marks the first time since 1995 they have reached the third round of the playoffs.

After the game, factions from both sides spilled onto the field and engaged in hostilities witnesses said moved into the parking lots.

The incident erupted after a pushing match between players near the Wellborn bench when Oakman’s final lateral-laden play ended. Sources said the game officials reported the players engaged in pushing and shoving, but only fans threw punches. Video appearing in various social media shows the early portion of the melee.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association is investigating and Wellborn is expected to learn of any decisions related to the incident Monday. The AHSAA Saturday referred questions to the school. Messages left for Wellborn principal Christopher Hayes weren’t immediately returned.

Head coach Jeff Smith said the Panthers would abide by whatever rulings are made. He wouldn’t speculate on any potential action, but said he hadn’t heard if the Panthers would lose the privilege of hosting.

Wellborn hasn’t hosted a third-round playoff game since the last time it reached the round – 1995 – when it beat Erwin 27-10. It was the only other time the Panthers hosted a third-round game in four previous trips.

“I am worried,” Smith said Saturday as he wearily returned from the playoff coaches meeting in Montgomery. “Whatever they decide is what we’ve got to do.

“I hate it. It was a great win, and I hate this had to happen.”

Smith said he had “full confidence” in King when he sent the kicker out for the winning field goal attempt. The Panthers were in position to win the kick after Jake Thrasher blocked the extra point on an Oakman touchdown with 1:40 to play.

“I knew he could do it,” Smith said. “He’s been practicing these kicks a lot and all the practice he’s done paid off. He’s the first in school history to win a game with a kick. We’ve lost a bunch of games like that; this is the first one we’ve won.”

Madison Academy advanced to the game with a 42-20 home win over Piedmont. The Mustangs’ explosive offense produced touchdowns on five of its first seven possessions, including four on plays of 44 yards or longer. Kerryon Johnson and Malik Miller both rushed for more than 100 yards.

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