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NORTHPORT – Pell City quarterback Jackson Williamson only had three words for his kicker, Ryan Curran, before he lined up for his potential game-winning field goal.
“Nice and smooth,” Williamson said. “I’ve been telling him that before every kick, ‘nice and smooth.’”
Curran converted the field goal from 28 yards out to give the Panthers the lead late in the fourth quarter, en route to a 38-28 victory over the Tuscaloosa County Wildcats Friday night.
Tied at 28-28, Pell City’s Jonathan Spears intercepted Tuscaloosa County quarterback Seth Franks, returning the pass 30 yards to the Wildcats’ 19 to put the Panthers in scoring position late in the game.
The Wildcats stood strong, though, forcing the Panthers to line up for a field goal from 40 yards out. The kick fell short, but a Tuscaloosa County flag allowed for a second kick that ultimately proved to be the game-winner.
“He’s a great kicker, he’s got a great leg,” Williamson said. “The front line did great on the field goal. It was great all around, we all finished tonight, that’s the thing we haven’t been able to do in the past, is finish.”
Pell City had nothing and everything to play for entering its final regular season game of the year, having already been eliminated from postseason contention with a record of 5-4.
Both teams traded touchdowns throughout the game, with scores tied at 7, 14 and 21 after the first three quarters.
Williamson scored the first three touchdowns for the Panthers – all rushing – while Tuscaloosa County got its first three touchdowns from three running backs – Derrick Burns, Omar Jones and Darius Morton.
The Wildcats broke the deadlock in the fourth quarter with a 55-yard punt return touchdown from senior wide receiver Allen Cooks to take a 28-21 lead. But as the theme went for much of the night, the Panthers responded with a touchdown of their own just 42 seconds later when Panthers running back Demaurian Wills outran the defense for a 59-yard touchdown.
Following the field goal, Williamson sealed a Pell City victory with a 2-yard touchdown run – his fourth rushing touchdown of the night.
“We never beat T. County in school history, it’s great to get it,” Williamson said. “Everybody played great. All our seniors were really happy to go out with the win, it’s just great. Can’t explain it.”
“Not many teams in the state get to win their last ball game,” Pell City coach Brooks Dampeer said. “Obviously, we want to get into the playoffs – that was the goal – and we didn’t. We were here tonight to prove we’re a playoff team.”
Tuscaloosa County (7-3, 5-2 Class 6A, Region 5) will face Oxford in the first round of the playoffs next week.