Panthers upset Conway’s playoff plans in double OT

Conway had everything to play for; Carolina Forest was playing for nothing but pride.

Pride won out in a hard-fought double-overtime showdown between the region rivals as the Panthers (2-9 overall, 1-3 Region 6-4A), already eliminated from the playoffs, made a strong closing statement by upsetting the playoff-bound Tigers (5-6, 2-2).

Conway, which could have wrapped up the region title with a win over the Panthers, now must wait until Saturday for the tiebreakers to determine its postseason fate. West Florence won the Region 6-4A title with Friday’s win over South Florence, which takes the No. 2 seed and leaves Conway as the No. 3. Playoff pairings will be determined at a coaches meeting in Columbia on Saturday.

The Tigers were playing without starting quarterback Mykal Moody, who sustained a deep thigh bruise last week, and backup QB Ethan Smith, who suffered a broken collar bone in the same game. Instead, third-string QB Sawyer Jordan led the Tigers, who had their opportunities but could not capitalize.

After claiming their first lead of the game in double overtime on a 20-yard field goal by Ashton McCants, Conway gave up a game-winning touchdown grab from Will Brunson to Kyle Belack, their second TD connection of the night. The leaping grab in the back of the end zone touched off a wild celebration for a team that has had little to cheer about all season.

The Panthers showed the Tigers early that they were not content to roll over, taking the lead early on a Brunson-to-Ryan Yurachek TD pass from 19 yards out. Conway tied it on a 5-yard TD run by Jaquail Crosland, and failed on a chance to take the lead right before halftime by botching a shotgun snap on the Panthers’ 1-yard line.

Brunson struck again with an 8-yard TD pass to Belack to regain the lead at 14-7, but he was intercepted by McCants in the fourth quarter to set up Crosland’s game-tying touchdown run from 6 yards out. Neither team was able to break the tie in regulation and the two teams went to a Texas shootout-style overtime.

The Panthers struck first in the opening OT on an 8-yard run by Brunson but Conway answered with Crosland’s third TD run of the night to force double OT. The Carolina Forest defense held the Tigers on a third-and-short try and forced McCants to kick a 20-yard field goal, then Belack ended it with a diving catch in the back of the end zone.

Photo by Rancier Photography

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