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What a way to start the season

I’ve never been a fan of rivalry games at the beginning of the season. It just seems natural that the game you most want to win should be the last regular season game you play.

After Thursday night’s Chilton County High-Jemison game, though, my opinion might be changing. The Highway 31 Throwdown was easily one of the best football games I’ve ever covered.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t think Jemison had much of a chance because last year I saw a team that didn’t think it could beat its rival.

But this year’s group of Panthers believed. The neatest part of watching a football game from the sidelines is getting a feel for the attitudes of the teams you cover. One thing I’ll remember about this game is the Jemison player who insisted, “It’s happening,” as I walked by.

That’s usually how these things work: think you’re going to win, and you usually win.

The Panthers had reasons to doubt themselves. After jumping out to a 14-0 lead, CCHS took a 21-20 lead before halftime. After a first half filled with scoring, neither squad could move the football in the second half.

The best example of the defensive effort came at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Tigers had the ball first and goal from Jemison’s 2-yard line. Three plays and one penalty later, it was fourth and goal from the 20. A field goal attempt was blocked, and the Jemison defense had given its team a chance to win. The offense responded, and the rest is history.

Jemison quarterback Eric Argo was tremendous in this game. Running the offense for the first time in a hostile environment against a team that his team hadn’t beaten during his high school tenure, Argo wasn’t fazed.

Maybe the most memorable play of the night was when the CCHS defense Argo stuffed for a loss on a quarterback sneak on a fourth and 1. With at least three Tigers draped over him, Argo somehow found a way to fip the football to Merrell Morrow before going down. Morrow ran for 26 yards and a first down.

The pair connected later in the game for a play that was even more important, the game-winner.

This will be a game everyone in attendance will remember for a long time.

– Stephen Dawkins is the sports editor for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Sunday and Wednesday. He can be reached at stephen.dawkins@clantonadvertiser.com