E.A. Sports Today

Wellborn beats Saks in nailbiter

Montgomery’s last-second interception in end zone seals Panthers’ victory in battle of ranked County teams

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Jordan Montgomery has a big promise to keep, one he has every intention of honoring the rest of the season.

The Wellborn junior safety made the play of the game Friday night. He intercepted a pass in the end zone with three-tenths of a second remaining to thwart a furious Saks rally and secure the Panthers’ 21-20 season-opening win on The Hill.

“It was epic,” Montgomery said of his play.

It was bordering on a religious experience. Before the pick, Montgomery made a promise to his maker that if he got the clinching turnover he would remain humble and bring his absolute best effort every time he steps on the field.

And then it happened. Saks quarterback Quin Smith scrambled to find Demetrius Powell — or anyone in white — in the end zone. Smith heaved the ball toward the end zone where the 6-foot-1 Montgomery moved into its path for his big play.

“When I lined up against Demetrius Powell, one of the best wide receivers in 4A football, I was thinking to myself if God made me win this catch, if He gave me this catch, I promise you, I would stay humble, I would stay hungry and I would come and fight every Friday night,” Montgomery said on the field after the game. “He gave me the opportunity. I looked up and I saw that ball and God gave me the ability to catch it, and I thank God for that.”

Montgomery said he had no idea the Wildcats were going to go to Powell on the final play. He thought it would be either a run by Calvin Figueroa, the bruising Wildcats back who had run on just about every play in the second half until cramps took him to the sideline, or a keeper by Smith.

“When I saw Demetrius look back and I saw that ball going up I just had to snatch it,” Montgomery said. “If it was a pick, it was a pick; if it was a knock down, it was a knocked down. I just knew one way or the other I had to get the stop.”

It seemed like it was going to be Montgomery’s game to star all along. He scored the Panthers’ first touchdown on a 3-yard fourth-down run and kicked all three of their extra points. Actually, the Panthers scored two of their touchdowns on fourth down.

All the game’s scoring took place in the first half. Saks, ranked sixth in Class 4A, amassed 210 yards in the first half, 165 on its three touchdowns. Wellborn, ranked eighth in 3A, had 206 yards.

“Montgomery is an outstanding athlete, outstanding football player and outstanding person; he’s got the package,” said Wellborn coach Jeff Smith, a teammate of Montgomery’s father on the Panthers’ famed Thin Twenty. “But you know one man can’t do it by himself. It’s a team effort.”

The final series was a combination of frantic plays and untimely penalties. The Wildcats ran 13 snaps in the 2:49 it took them to navigate the 50 of the 70 yards they needed for the winning score, many of them without having a timeout left.

Within the drive there were three completions negated by penalties for either having men downfield or passes across the line of scrimmage. At the height of the drama, with less than 30 seconds left, Smith had to leave the field for one play after losing his helmet on a 10-yard gain that got the Wildcats in the red zone.

The quarterback was unconsolable after the interception, rebuffing the efforts of at least three teammates, and left the field fighting back tears behind his face shield.

“He played his heart out,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “It’s just one of those things where our kids, we played hard. We didn’t play smart and we left a lot of plays out of there on the field we didn’t make, but you’ve got to give them credit and we just have to move on to next week. … He’s going to make plays for us.”

The Saks cheerleaders made a spirit sign for their players to run through before the game that read “Breaking News: Walter Wellborn gets tired.” If the Panthers cheer squad had made it, the banner would have included the final line “… of losing to Saks.”

The Wildcats won seven of the previous 10 meetings, including the last two, and the Panthers were getting anxious about it.

“We were really hungry,” Montgomery said. “It’s been haunting us for the longest time, especially since two years ago when (Wellborn) had won over there. We had watched films of that game and their effort. We just had to go out and give the best effort we could give.”

In the end he turned it over to a higher authority. And now he has a promise to keep.

(On the cover: Jordan Montgomery)


Saks 12 8 0 0 — 20
Wellborn 14 7 0 0 — 21

W – Jordan Montgomery 6 run (Montgomery kick), 8:55 1Q
S – Calvin Figueroa 48 run (run failed), 7:44 1Q
W – D.J. Rhoden 49 run (Montgomery kick), 2:01 1Q
S – Figueroa 78 pass from Quin Smith (run failed), 36.7 1Q
S – Smith 39 run (Figueroa run), 2:19 2Q
W – Rhoden 15 pass from Austin McQueen (Montgomery kick), 58.9 2Q

Category Saks Well
First downs 15 13
Rushes-yds 46-254 42-208
Passes (C-A-I) 5-13-1 4-7-0
Passing yds 112 58
Fumbles-lost 3-1 2-0
Punts-avg 5-34.2 5-24.8
Penalties-yds 12-75 4-20

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