The Heathwood Varsity Football team (1-3) returned back to the friendly confines of Highlander Stadium on Thursday night, for a matchup with SCISA foe Pinewood Prep. The game, originally scheduled for Friday night, was moved to Thursday with the expected arrival of Hurricane Irma. The Highlanders battled the Panthers toe-to-toe, before allowing two late Pinewood scores, and falling 31-14.
The Highlander defense started the game on the aggressive, forcing the Pinewood offense into a field goal opportunity on the first drive of the game, before senior Wade Allen blocked his 2nd kick in consecutive games to keep the Panthers off the board. A failed fake punt on the ensuing Heathwood drive gave Pinewood a short field, and they’d convert the FG, and claim the 3-0 lead.
The Heathwood offense started to get rolling as the half wore on, with solid catches from Allen and Reagan Olsen, and the scrambling abilities of Duffy Beal and Brandon McCullough, only lacking the final scoring touch. The Panthers took advantage of a late-half short field, and punched in a rushing touchdown for a 10-0 lead with just under 6 minutes to go in the half.
McCullough, staking his claim as SCISA’s most exciting return man, changed directions three times, broke several tackles, and raced 97 yards on the ensuing kickoff to put the Highlanders on the board (Grayson Tanner PAT). The Highlander D flexed their muscles to close out the half, including sacks from Davis Buchanan, Daniel Schmitt, and William Bowers to trail at the break, 10-7, but holding onto the game’s momentum.
The Highlanders received the ball to open the 2nd half, but couldn’t get into a rhythm, right as Pinewood found theirs. Panther star running back Michael Latham moved into a wildcat quarterback look and marched down the field in just five plays, extending the lead to 17-7.
After swapping defensive stops, the Highlanders showed a wrinkle of their own, moving Mac Hardy to QB, and showing off a two-tiered run attack with McCullough, before firing a long pass to Jaelen King. Just before King crossed the goalline, a Panther defender punched the ball loose into the endzone, only to be scooped up by Beal to close the lead to 17-14.
Setting up for what looked to be a dramatic ending, the Highlanders were clicking on all cylinders, and the defense forced the Panthers into a fourth-down inside Highlander territory with just over ten minutes remaining. A Heathwood defender broke through the line, and nearly brought Latham down in the backfield, before the Panther back broke free and rumbled through a hole into the endzone.
The Highlanders pushed late to close the score, but the Pinewood team stood tough and closed out the victory with a late touchdown to seal the game.
Heathwood will return to action next Friday, as they travel to Manning to take on the Laurence Manning Swampcats at 7:30.