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Panthers Take On the Falcons in Annual Thursday Night Lights Game

by Chandler Patrick and Cassie Samuels

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On Thursday., Aug. 31, our beloved Palo Verde Panthers fought their battle against the Foothill Falcons in the annual Thursday Night Lights game, inevitably ending with a 14-15 upset. Between the game being broadcasted on live TV and the jitters of the return to home turf, it was clear the audience was in for quite a game.

“[Being on TV] was nerve racking, because you know a lot of people are watching you. However, it didn’t differ my focus; I was 100 percent focused on the game,” said senior captain and four-year football program member,  Daniel Bellinger.

Foothill had control of the ball first, but with an immediate offsides penalty, the ball fell back into Panther hands. Senior Brenton Lee made a 21 yard return, with Senior Chamere Thomas following with a constant carry, pushing to first and goal on the seven yard line, and eventually putting the first points on the board with a touchdown. With a good extra point, the Panthers stood 7-0 at only nine minutes into the first quarter.

“It feels great [to help out my team]. I just love being apart of the team because I’ve been with these kids since freshman year and we’ve all created a bond over time,” said Thomas.

The lucky streak it seemed to end momentarily, with a series of incomplete passes and flag calls on top of flag calls. After a fourth down punt from the Panthers, the Falcons narrowly missed a chance to score on a 40 yard run, thanks to the Panthers near impeccable defense.

They came even closer to scoring until Junior Isaiah Scott knocked the ball out of bounds at a nail-crunching six yard line. Between lots of incomplete passes and a failed attempt at a fourth down, the ball returned to the Panthers, but was still too close to Falcon territory by the 3rd and 9th.

Once the ball returned yet again to the Falcons, a holding penalty against the Panthers cost them ten yards, but redemption came with an interception by Junior Karsonne Winters that lead into the second quarter.

Three separate flags introduced the second quarter, with constant back-and-forth between the two teams until two minutes remained until halftime. Two more calls on the Panthers, a false start and a pass interference, ended up giving Foothill the advantage in the last 30 seconds. With the crowd screaming “defense” in eager anticipation, the Falcons prevailed with a touchdown after a very long and grueling four downs. With the extra point being no good, the Panthers still stood in lead 7-6 at the half.

“Palo is working on being more disciplined, playing the ball 100 percent of the time, and being more aggressive, but at the same time being more conservative. I don’t think Foothill was the best opponent, we just had more mistakes that cost us the game,” said Thomas.

During halftime, the Primadonna Dance Team and Marching Band had a wonderful show to get the crowd fired up for the second half.

The third quarter started off as Palo kicked off after a long run back. The panthers were not going to let momentum switch over to the Falcons that easy as senior Chinonso Ugochukwu sacked the quarterback the next play. Although the series didn’t get off to the best start, Palo held Foothill to only a field goal, making the score 7-9. The Panthers needed to come take back the lead and spread the scores farther apart. The crowd, announcers, and sidelines were all on the edge of their chairs as the tension between the two teams became higher. Senior Chamere Thomas ended up running in the endzone for a Palo Verde touchdown, with the extra point good, driving the score up 14-9.

With roughly three minutes left in the third quarter, Falcons have the ball, tensions are still high, but Palo hope is high with a new, higher score. Senior Trey Kirkpatrick landed an interception on Foothill’s 45 yard line. The victory was short lived, and Palo ended up fumbling the ball the next play, making it Foothill’s ball on their own 40 yard line.

After that, there were many flags called that got the crowd roaring, starting with a pass interference, holding, then yet another pass interference. With the Falcons practically handed the ball in the end zone on the one yard line, they scored a touchdown, but such a victory was quickly taken away from them as another flag was called on their team this time, and were promptly moved back to the 16 yard line.

The next play, junior Julian Bradley scored for the Falcons but, yet again, there was another flag called. Although Palo fans were hopeful of another false play, it was ruled that the touchdown stands. 15 yards are added to kick off for unsportsmanlike conduct against Foothill, with the score now an unsettling 14-15.

With the game coming to an end, all Palo needs is a field goal to claim victory. On third down, Palos quarterback launches the ball down the field with a beautiful catch by senior Daniel Bellinger, only to be called incomplete because he was out-of-bounds. The panthers needed to go for it on fourth down, but sadly, Palo was stopped, Foothill regained the ball on their own 45 yard line. The Panthers were able to stop them, making the Falcons punt the ball to Palo’s 25 yard line.

With the game coming down to the wire, a little over two minutes left on the clock, an injury time out is taken for a member of the Falcon’s defense. The timeout is over,  and the Panthers need to get down the field. Palo received a first down complete to Bellinger and senior Nick Zuppas. With a nail biting finish, Palo was stopped. and the Falcons gained back control of the ball with a minute left in the game. Foothill used the strategy of allowing the clock to run down, making the final score solidified at a tragic 14-15.

“Foothill was a tough team, and I thought we were a better team, but we just didn’t do our job when it came down to it,” remarks senior captain Daniel Bellinger. He explains he will try to help make the team work better together to fix the small, “silly” mistakes that impacted the game hugely in order to win future games.

The Panthers vow to do just that at their next home game on Friday, Sept. 8 against the Legacy Longhorns, starting at 7 P.M. As the cleats return to home turf, so will Palo’s revived spirits.

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Panthers Take On the Falcons in Annual Thursday Night Lights Game