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Panthers fall in final moments

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Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 9:52 am

No fumble call sparks Orange Grove

Aided by a controversial call; or more precisely a non-call of a fumble in the waning minutes of the game last Friday night, the Orange Grove Bulldogs were able to escape the Panther den with a 28-21 victory.

On a night that Aransas Pass outgained the undefeated Bulldogs in total offense 299-281, had one more first down and controlled the time of possession by seven minutes, the final outcome was decided by a missed opportunity by the Panther defense and a blown call by the officials.

The Panthers played an inspired game, going toe-to-toe with the 3A Bulldogs. After trailing twice in the game by 14 points; the Panthers never let down throughout the contest. AP finally tied the score at 21 on the first play of the fourth quarter when Erik Johnson found Noe Cortez from 17 yards out for their second touchdown connection of the night.

With the game tied at 21, Orange Grove began its last drive of the night at its own 39-yard line with 2:37 left to play in the fourth quarter.

After a 16-yard gain on first down, Bulldog quarterback Ruben Lopez tried to hit wide out Matthew Priddy on a sideline pattern on the left side. The Panther’s Cortez read the play perfectly and cut in front of Priddy at the Panther 40 with what looked to be a sure pick-6 to give Aransas Pass the lead.

But Cortez was unable to hold onto the ball and then on third-and-7, Lopez hit Priddy in stride at the 38. Junior Jordan Cole made a hit on Priddy at the Panther 26. Cole’s helmet made a direct hit on the ball being carried in Priddy’s right arm. When Priddy went down, the ball bounced free and the Panther’s Daren Delarosa recovered the fumble at the 23.

Officials however ruled that the ground caused the ball to come loose therefore it was not a fumble and Orange Grove maintained possession.

On the very next play, Lopez found a seam up the middle and cut outside to daylight and a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 28-21 lead with just 1:40 left in the game.

The Panthers had one last opportunity, starting at their own 25 yard line. Facing a fourth-and-13 from the 22, Johnson found Cortez for a 14-yard gain out to the 36 with just 40 seconds remaining.

Four plays later, Johnson found Victor Gonzalez at the Panther 44 but he was tackled immediately and Orange Grove took over with just 22 seconds left to seal the win.

Cortez had three receptions for 44 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers while fullback Matt Johnson lead the ground attack for the fourth straight week with 114 yards. William Butler also broke free for 92 yards rushing.

After the game, the coaches told the team “you got better tonight.” Head Coach Gary Davenport reiterated to the team that “winning is not the most important thing, but trying to win is. Tonight you tried, I’m very proud of you.”

Davenport said “I’ve seen in the past when Aransas Pass would fold their tent at the first sign of adversity and tonight the kids played for 48 minutes. They came back and I’m proud of them.”

Aransas Pass starts District 16-2A play this week at Bishop.

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