BROOKSVILLE – It wasn’t long after the Senior Night activities prior to Friday’s football game between Bracken County and Frankfort, that the Polar Bear seniors realized their walk through an archway of balloons would be the highlight of their evening.
The Panthers had a mission and it did not include taking it easy on Bracken County. The Panthers put it to the Polar Bears and put themselves one step closer to a seventh straight district title with a 66-0 win.
With a victory this week at home against Eminence, the Panthers will clinch another district championship and assure themselves of home-field advantage in the playoffs.
FHS was coming off a lackluster performance in the first half of last week’s 38-0 win against host Paris.
“Coming off last week, we didn’t play real well down in Paris,” FHS coach Craig Foley said. “We never play well coming up here (to Bracken County), but we came out and challenged the kids to take it to them right away. And I think we did that tonight.”
The Panthers got going right away, forcing a three-and-out by the Polar Bears and returning the ensuing punt to the FHS 34-yard line. A 30-yard run on third-and-5 by Jalen Washington put the Panthers on the Bracken 31. Five plays later, quarterback Chris Hawkins hit Aaron Jackson for a 6-yard touchdown pass to put FHS up 6-0 with 5:46 left in the first quarter.
Then the scoring floodgates opened.
Bracken looked to be moving the ball well after a couple of short completions by Polar Bear quarterback Logan Houston. But on third-and-9, the Panthers sent a rush up the right side with Aaron Jackson who deflected the pass by Houston and then tipped it to himself as he ran for a 28-yard touchdown. The point after by Bailey Spade was good, putting FHS up 13-0.
Just minutes later, FHS’ Teantre McGee recovered a fumble after a pass completion at the Bracken 35-yard line and returned it for a touchdown. The Spade PAT was good, extending the lead to 20. FHS forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and on the first play from scrimmage, Hawkins hit Dre Scott for a 74-yard touchdown pass.
“I ran a hitch and (Hawkins) rolled out,” Scott said of the play. “So I broke away from the corner and I was wide open to make a touchdown.”
The score put FHS up 27-0 after the extra point with just a few seconds left in the first quarter.
“Traditionally we have been one of these teams that are slow starters,” Foley said. “We have tried to emphasize that we have to get going at a fast rate. We have to start putting teams away early and put any emotion out of the game. We did that tonight.”
The FHS offensive onslaught continued in the second quarter. Two plays in, Jalen Washington scored on a 1-yard plunge to make it 34-0 after the PAT.
Just a few minutes later, Hawkins hooked up with McGee again for a 22-yard touchdown pass that was set up by a 37-yard completion from Hawkins to Scott. The FHS lead was 41-0 with 6:22 left in the half.
“It was great,” FHS lineman Jackson O’Daniel said of his team’s start. “We came out and played WAY better than we did in the first half against Paris. You can see the results.”
The Panthers scored once more before halftime on a 70-yard punt return by Jalen Washington, leaving the score 47-0.
Big plays were plentiful for the Panthers throughout the game. But Foley knows that those types of plays aren’t always best.
“Those (big plays) are nice, but I wish we would have sustained a drive or two,” Foley said. “Once we get down to going into the playoffs, we aren’t going to have these big plays. We’re going to have to be able to run the 10-, 12-, 13-yard plays.
“But we’ll take them,” he said. “It’s what we are. We are an opportunistic football team. We try to put our athletes out in space and let them make plays. We’re not going to hide from that. But we also know that down the road, we have to make some sustained drives.”
The scores kept coming in the second half. Frankfort started the third quarter with a 43-yard run by McGee who went untouched into the end zone. The point after by Spade was good to put FHS up 54-0.
FHS’ JJ Jones scored three minutes later on a 6-yard run set up by a 42-yard punt return by Jalen Washington to the Bracken 19.
The final score came late in the fourth quarter when Keenan Thurman hit the edge and went 69 yards for the touchdown.
Despite the lopsided score and excellent play overall by the Panthers, there are still things they can work on.
“I am sure we will be able to find plenty on film to critique,” Foley said. “There were a couple of times that our D-ends were standing up and looking for the ball instead of going through the tackle. We had a couple of guys in the same gap.
“Offensively, when we tried to run the ball, we didn’t do a very good job,” he said. “We did a nice job in pass pro, but when it was time to run the ball, we didn’t do a solid job with that. I am one of these firm believers that if you are a team that throws the ball a lot, you become a little passive in your run attack.”
FHS hits the field again Friday at Sower Field against Eminence.