A-J tops Pana for playoff win
For the second game in the Class 3A playoffs, the Anna-Jonesboro Community High School football team stymied an opponent with a potent offense.
The host Wildcats posted a 29-14 win over visiting Pana at The Pit Saturday afternoon, Nov. 4.
The A-J defense held standout Pana quarterback Jacob Beeson to 151 yards total passing and 64 yards rushing.
“We did a pretty good job of holding him down a little bit,” A-J football coach Brett Detering said. “We had a little bit of breakdown in coverage, but overall we gave up less yards than they were used to.”
A-J improved to 11-0 and Pana finishes at 9-2. The Wildcats advance to the Class 3A quarterfinals and play at Vandalia this Saturday.
The big play of the game that propelled A-J to the win was a goal line stand in the final quarter.
With A-J leading 22-14, the Panthers had driven down field. On fourth down, Pana was six yards from scoring a touchdown.
However, Beeson was halted after a five-yard gain on the 1-yard line.
The Wildcats then took over and drove down field. A-J fullback Jayce Turner capped a lengthy 14-play drive with an 8-yard touchdown run.
Jaryt Tripp’s extra point kick closed out the scoring with 1:14 remaining in the game.
Conner Jerolds intercepted Beeson’s pass to end any late comeback bids by Pana.
The interception was the second of the game for the Wildcats.
“Those interceptions were two big ones for us,” Detering said.
A-J quarterback Bryce Osman then dropped to his knee on a couple of plays to run out the game clock.
In the opening quarter, the Panthers’ offense was stymied on their opening drive when Noah Smith intercepted a Beeson pass.
The Wildcats were then able to launch an 11-play drive that ended with Turner scoring on a 3-yard run.
A-J had an offside penalty on the extra point kick try. Tripp was still able to put the football through the uprights from a little farther away.
The Wildcats pulled ahead for keeps 7-0 with 5:07 remaining in the opening quarter.
After the Panthers were forced to punt, the Wildcats were again on the move.
A-J’s Kyle McMahan then caught a 41-yard TD pass from Osman after a brief four-play drive.
Tripp’s kick boosted A-J to a 14-0 advantage with 1:26 remaining in the opening quarter.
After the Panthers were halted again, A-J was on the move again.
Turner scored on a 6-yard run at the end of an 8-play drive.
Pana was off sides on the extra point kick, moving A-J closer to the end zone.
Turner then scored on the two-point conversion run for a 22-0 Wildcat lead with 6:21 remaining in the first half.
Detering praised the A-J defense for keeping Pana’s offense off the field during the first half.
“They definitely have that type of offense that controls the time of possession.”
But that potent offensive attack was limited to only one TD in the first half.
Late in the first half, Pana got its offense rolling.
Running back Ian Harbert scored on a 1-yard run at the end of a 10-play drive.
Harbert ran in the conversion points and the Panthers pulled to 22-8 with 2:49 remaining in the first half.
The Wildcats had moved to midfield when the first half concluded.
After a nifty return by McMahan to open the second half, the Wildcats were forced to punt at midfield.
Pana’s offense was on the move again.
Beeson scored on a 5-yard run to cap an 8-play drive.
A-J’s lineman D.J. Latham reinjured a knee on the TD run. Detering said his status was uncertain for this week’s game.
The extra point kick was blocked and Pana pulled to 22-14 with 7:29 remaining in the third quarter.
Both teams traded punts to close out the third quarter.
A-J was forced to punt again early in the final quarter deep in its own territory and the Panthers took over at the Wildcats’ 35-yard line.
This started a 6-play drive that stalled on the 1-yard line as the Wildcats took over and marched down field for the final TD.
The Wildcats rushed for 291 yards. Turner led the way with 169 yards on 33 carries. Osman added 117 yards on 27 carries.
Osman was 2 of 3 passing for 41 yards, with McMahan making a reception for 41 yards.
The downside of the game was that the Wildcats were called for 11 penalties for 95 yards. The Panthers had only four penalties for 38 yards.
“We ended up with 11 penalties and that’s the most we’ve had all season long,” Detering said. “We’re not used to that. In a playoff game, you don’t want to do that.”