Kenny Moxey threw a touchdown pass to Jocques Ross, and Keion Davis rushed for 99 yards but the Panthers were handed their first loss of the season, a 17-12 setback to Wheeler at home last Friday.
Facing fourth down and eight on Wheeler’s 43-yard line with just over two minutes to left in the fourth quarter, Langston Hughes’ Moxey dropped back and fired a pass over the middle intended for Bingo Morton.
But a Wildcat defender made contact with Morton, causing the ball to be deflected into the hands of Elyjah Marrow for an interception and a flag to be thrown.
But after a brief discussion, the referees ruled the defender didn’t commit pass interference and the Wildcats kept the ball with 1:56 remaining.
“I try to teach the kids sometimes things don’t go your way but that is why we take care of our part and just continue to fight,” Langston Hughes coach Willie Cannon said. “We try to use life lessons. We stumble but we just can’t let it cause us to crash. We must continue to keep our heads up and find a way to fight through.”
“Thank goodness for our defense,” Wheeler coach Mike Collins said. “They were relentless in the second half. Our defensive staff does a great job preaching turnovers. They went out and did what they were supposed to do on the defensive side and I was very excited to see that.”
Elijah Staley drew an offsides penalty and Jacobi Green ran for the game-sealing first down since the Panthers (2-1) were out of timeouts.
After Stephan Whitehead put Langston Hughes on the scoreboard with a pair of field goals in the second quarter, the Panthers finally got into the end zone early in the fourth, when Moxey closed a 10-play, 74-yard drive with an 18-yard TD pass to Ross with 11:54 to go.
“I’m proud of the way the kids fought back in the second half,” Cannon said. “We’re still going through growing pains and this is just another hurdle that we have to bounce back from.”
With a field goal by JD Barron and a 42-yard touchdown reception from Staley to Green, Wheeler (3-0) jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first. After the Panthers responded, Staley extended Wheeler’s margin to 11 with a 26-yard scoring toss to Emanuel Beal with 35 seconds left in the half.
But from thereon, the Panthers’ defense forced five punts.
“They did a great job of stopping our run game in the second half,” Collins said.
The Panthers visit Rockdale County this Friday.