By Tony Tsoukalas / Sports Writer
The Meridian Star
Quitman quarterback Franklin Jones was in so much pain he could barely call his cadence from under center. The senior quarterback had taken a helmet to his side early in the fourth quarter and was in excruciating pain, but not even that was enough to stop him from leading the Panthers to a 47-40 win against Forrest County AHS on Friday night.
Down 26-19, Jones returned to the game after missing the Panthers last possession. He wasn’t going to let his team down, and he certainly wasn’t going to spend his final game sitting on the sidelines.
“It hurt every step I took,” Jones said. “But it is my senior year and I was determined to fight through the pain.”
A long kick return gave Jones and Panthers the ball at the Aggie 32-yard line to start. Even with the good field position, the task was still daunting for the quarterback.
After a false start to begin the drive, Jones connected with Kyle Colston for a 24-yard gain to give the Panthers the ball at the Aggie 13-yard line.
However, three-straight plays failed to produce any yards, and Quitman was faced with a fourth-and-10 with its season on the line.
Once again, battling pain with every small movement he took, it was up to Jones to save the Panthers. On fourth down, the quarterback dropped back and delivered a bullet through traffic, hitting receiver Tavarious Moore in the end zone for the 13-yard touchdown to tie the game at 26-26.
“It was like a story book, or something from the movies,” Jones said. “I’m just glad it happened to us.”
Heading into overtime, Jones continued to carry the Panthers. After the pocket collapsed on a third and 12, the agile quarterback scrambled his way out of pressure and scampered into the end zone to give the Panthers a 33-26 lead.
“I was just focused,” Jones said. “There was no way I was going to let us lose.”
The Aggies would answer back on their possession, sending the game into double overtime. Forrest County AHS would come back again on its next possession, scoring on a half-back pass to put them on top 40-33 to put the pressure right back on Quitman.
Jones just kept coming, taking the ball for nine yards on first down and jumping over the goaline on second down to tie the game.
Quitman running back Josh Davis would rumble in from three yards out on the Panthers next possession to give Quitman a 47-40 lead in the third over time.
This time, it was the Panthers defense that stepped for Quitman. The Panthers forced fourth and goal from the four-yard line when Aggie Quarterback Carter Hankins dropped back for a pass. Quitman linebacker Joshua Robinson was there for the Panthers though, stepping in front of a pass in the back of the end zone to ice the win 47-40 for the visiting Panthers.
The win moves Quitman to South State where it will travel to Greene County next week for a chance to play in the state championship.
“It’s going to take practice, hard work and focus,” Jones said. “They are a real good football team and we have to prepare for them.”