“I usually stay fairly calm but this is just too much,” said Whitmer head coach Joe Palka. “It is so exciting.”
The Panther’s thrilling win was set-up by a late fourth quarter touchdown by an unlikely hero, Richard Harris. On a team featuring Michigan-bound Kevin Koger and Beau Norton, it was Harris’ grab that allowed the Panthers to tie the game and eventually defeat the Titans in overtime.
Harris’ catch was one of several that the Panthers were able to convert against the Titan cornersbacks. All evening the Panthers were able to escape from third and long situations by findings receivers open. More times than not, the open receiver was being guarded by an over-matched Titan cornerback. In fact, the Panther’s overtime touchdown resulted from a St. John’s defensive back’s slipping which allowed Whitmer’s Jeremy Jones to scamper into the end zone virtually unmolested.
The Panther victory spoiled another great performance by St. John’s running back, Dajon Booth. Booth gained 169 yards on 16 carries including touchdown runs of 63 and 90 yards but, in the end, it was not enough.
A disappointed Doug Pearson, the Titan’s head coach, commented, “This is a tough loss but we still have three games to play. Anything can happen. We are going to continue to play hard and hopefully still make the playoffs. We don’t intend to give up.’
The evening’s scoring was started by the Titans and occurred on the Titan’s first possession. On the game’s fifth play and, subsequent to the Titan’s second penalty less than three minutes, St. John’s running back Dajon Booth used his sprinter speed to break through the Panther line and outrace the Whitmer secondary to give the Titan’s a brief 7-0 lead.
It did not take the Panthers long to answer the Titans, however, as they tied the game o n their very next possession. In a drive accented by several double digit rushes, Panther quarterback, Donnie Dottie, scored the first of his two touchdowns by carrying the ball the final five yards into the Titan end zone.
By halftime the Panthers were able to score again and take a 14-7 lead into the locker room. The second Whitmer TD was set up by a bad snap on an attempted Titan punt that resulted in the Panthers gaining possession at the St. John’s five-yard line. It took the Panthers only 2 plays and Dottei’s hard running to take the ball into the end zone to give the Panthers a 14-7 lead.
The third quarter belonged to St. John’s as they cut down on the number of penalties and controlled the line of scrimmage to take a 21-14 lead into the game’s fourth quarter. Neither team managed much offense in the fourth quarter and it appeared that the Titans were going to hold on to narrow lead but the Panther’s Richard Harris stepped forward and broke the hearts of the Titans by grabbing his first catch of the year for a game tying 38 yard touchdown.
In overtime it was all Whitmer as the cardiac Panthers scored in three plays and then ended the game when cornerback Steve Schneider intercepted Titan quarterback Walt Anderson’s desperation third and long pass to extinguish the Titan’s hopes.
Whitmer’s victory pushes their record to 6-1 while the Titans fall to 4-3.