JACKSON – Friday’s class A state championship game was nothing short of thrilling as for four quarters French Camp and Stringer went back and forth scoring with the Red Devils, ultimately coming out on top with a 20-17 victory.
French Camp is no stranger to the sport of the football, but this was the first time the Panthers culminated their season with a trip to Jackson for the title game. As action proceeded, it was clear that the Panthers came ready to play, but in the end, the team came up just three points shy of their first championship.
For the Panthers coach Nathan Wright, the game was just what he expected and that was a tough fought battle that came down to the wire.
“It was exactly what I thought it would be,” Wright said. “It was just a war. (Stringer) Coach (Marion) Brannan has done a fantastic job. His guys were ready to play and they got after it. It was just everything you expect a state championship to be, (and) came down to the last play which is what you want.”
Stringer started the scoring as Cade Hinton nailed a 28-yard field goal to place the Red Devils ahead by three. The Panthers quickly answered back by driving 80 yards down the field and ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Jaylon Clemons. Following a successful extra point by Sam Gould, the Panthers were up 7-3 at the end of one quarter.
The second quarter started much like the first as Hinton again split the uprights to add three points to Stinger’s total making it 7-6 with 10:15 to play in the half.
After missing a 45-yard field goal, Gould received a second attempt to score as Stringer was forced to go three and out. On his second try of the quarter, Gould was successful from 35 yards to place French Camp ahead 10-6 at the half.
Clemons had 72 yards on nine carries with one touchdown to lead the Panthers at the half. Quarterback Jesse Hosket was 5-for-9 for 39 yards, while Hagan Box picked up three receptions for 25 yards.
Stringer quarterback Tevin Moore ran for 73 yards on 13 rushes and passed for an additional 32 yards. Moore was 2-for-4 in the half with his two completions going to Lazarius Jones who picked up 32 yards for the Red Devils.
As the third quarter got underway, Gould lined up for his third field goal attempt, a 42-yarder. The senior was just short on the kick leaving the score 10-6 with 7:36 left to play.
Following Gould’s unsuccessful kick, the Red Devils found their way into the end zone for the first time. With 5:25 left in the quarter, Moore rushed in for 51 yard and the score. Hinton followed the touchdown with an extra point to place Stringer up 13-10.
On its next set of possessions, French Camp fumbled the ball allowing Stringer to take over at the 50-yard line. The Red Devils were unable to capitalize on the turnover and the teams headed into the final quarter separated by only three points.
The beginning of the fourth quarter was relatively quiet, the action that highlighted the final 5 minutes of the game certainly made up for any previous lull in action.
To break the lack of scoring, Hosket crossed the goalline on a 4-yard quarterback keeper. Gould picked up the extra point to give French Camp a 17-13 lead with 4:50 left to play.
The Panthers lead was short-lived as with 2:39 left to play Moore provided the Red Devils six points as he completed a 19-yard touchdown run. Following a successful Hinton point after attempt, the score stood 20-17 Stringer.
French Camp received the kickoff and was mounting a successful drive down the field, but the Panthers drive was stopped short with 1:26 left as the Red Devils intercepted the ball to secure their 20-17 victory and the Class A State championship.
“You didn’t know who was going to make the next play,” Wright said. “We kept thinking we would get a chance to make it and we had a chance to stop them. They made a big play, then we came back and had some big runs. You hate for it to end with an interception there by Jesse (Hosket), but again, we fought hard and at the end of the day, they made fewer mistakes than we made and they won it so that’s just the way it works.”
Clemons led the Panther charge picking up 208 yards on 19 carries with one touchdown, while Hosket closed his night going 9-for-18 with interception for 75 yards and added another 64 yards on 10 rushes.
The Red Devil offense was led by Moore who picked up 222 yards on 29 rushes for two touchdowns and was 4-for-9 for the night for an additional 45 yards.
Even though his team came up short for the state championship, Wright “can’t say enough about (his) kids” and their work ethic. As the season comes to an end, the coach is looking forward to what the future holds.
“Last year, we had to endure adversity and it got us to this point and we’re hoping that even this adversity makes us that much hungrier to be even better,” Wright said. “We hope it is going to work for us and we hope it does start a trend and you continue to see the French Camp Panthers competing for state championships or at least competing against everybody at a quality level. We’ve enjoyed a great year and just can’t wait to see what happens next.”