E.A. Sports Today

Donoho derailed

Falcons cut their deficit to 17-7 in third quarter, but Mars Hill scores the next 21 points to win handily

Donoho’s William Nelson (25) and Amarion Smedley (2) knock the ball away from a Mars Hill player Friday night. On the cover, Falcons’ DeKari Garrett (22) tries to get a grip on Mars Hill’s Hunter Kilpatrick. (Photos by Jim Hannon/Florence TimesDaily).

By Will Motlow
Special to East Alabama Sports Today

FLORENCE – With a 17-point halftime lead against a tough opponent, Mars Hill knew from past experience it could not let off the gas.

After giving up a touchdown early in the second half, the Panthers scored the next 21 points to defeat Donoho 38-7 in the second round of the Class 1A playoffs.

“We wanted to come out here and prove that we still belong in the playoffs,” Mars Hill quarterback Joseph Hanson said. “We had a lead, but we knew we had to keep firing. Earlier in the season, we had a lead against Brooks and they came back and won the game. So, we knew we had to keep firing to keep that from happening again.”

Mars Hill (11-1) scored on its first possession of the game. Peyton Higgins’ 1-yard touchdown ended a 65-yard drive to give the Panthers an early 7-0 lead. Hanson’s 15-yard touchdown early in the second quarter extended the lead to 14-0.

Hanson intercepted a pass and returned it 39 yards to set the Panthers up at the Falcons’ 14 with 19 seconds left in the half. Jayce Thornton kicked a 24-yard field goal as time expired to give Mars Hill a 17-0 halftime lead.

Donoho (9-3) scored on the opening possession of the second when Rod Elston broke a 42-yard scoring run down the left sideline to make it 17-7 with 7:44 to play in the third quarter.

Mars Hill then drove the ball 48 yards in 11 plays to get to the Falcons’ 19. A 16-yard loss and a holding penalty in the backfield resulted in Mars Hill facing third-and-41 from midfield. Hanson proceeded to score on a quarterback draw, running up the middle for 50 yards and a demoralizing 24-7 lead with 49 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

“It was a draw,” Hanson said. “I made my read and no one was in the middle, so I kept it.”

“That was the play of the game right there,” Mars Hill coach Darrell Higgins said.

Donoho only mustered 21 yards of offense on three possessions from that point.

Mars Hill extended its lead to 31-7 on its next possession on a bruising 8-yard Colt Smith run. Higgins added a 22-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to round out the scoring at 38-7.

“I thought we played four good quarters,” Higgins said. “We really stepped it up after they made it 17-7 in the third quarter. I’m really proud of our defensive line.”

Smith led the Panthers in rushing with 118 yards on 15 carries. Higgins had with 111 yards on 13 carries and Hanson rushed for 92 yards on nine carries.

“It was a hard fought game,” Donoho coach Mark Sanders said. “Mars Hill is one heck of a football team. They’re tough. They have good fundamentals. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went all the way to the state finals.”

First, however, the Panthers have to get past South Lamar on the road next Friday.

Will Motlow is a sports correspondent for the Florence TimesDaily.

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