Panthers finding ways to win

Published 5:09 pm Wednesday, November 10, 2010

By Stephen Dawkins

Jemison has advanced to the second round of the state football playoffs for the first time since 2000, the year after a run to the state finals at Birmingham’s Legion Field, because the Panthers have found a way to win the games they needed to win.

The crucial victories include a 57-56 decision over Class 4A, Region 4 foe Greene County on Oct. 22 and a 35-27 win over Holtville last week in the first round of the playoffs.

Both of those games went into double overtime, and coach Brad Abbott said the outcomes are a result of his team’s keeping an upbeat attitude until the end.

“Especially at halftime, you can tell what they’re thinking,” Abbott said. “Some teams will come into the locker room dragging. This group, it’s all positive statements coming out of their mouth.

“It’s been a fun group to coach.”

Abbott singled out seniors Isa Bentley, M.J. McKenzie, Jesse Taylor and Cole Thompson as players that have above and beyond their specific jobs by playing their best at crucial moments and by serving as emotional leaders for their teammates.

Encouragement from Panthers like the four above has allowed younger players to take on increased roles. For example, Bentley shifted from his usual inside linebacker position to the outside against Holtville, who was running wide for long gains.

Freshman Keyshawn Jemison was forced into action at middle linebacker and performed admirably, registering five tackles.

JHS (7-4) will need to play its best to have a chance at 7 p.m. on Friday at Dadeville, which has been so good at finding ways to win that there are no losses on the schedule yet.

The Tigers haven’t been dominant, though, with six of their 11 wins coming by no more than two scores.

Still, Dadeville features athletic quarterback Kyle Caldwell, a senior, running a high-powered spread offense, and 39 seniors and juniors on the roster.

“There’s a reason why they’re undefeated,” Abbott said.