Not only did Wellborn honor its senior class, but Friday night marked the two-year anniversary of the death of Panthers player Aaron “Tootie” Harris.
Wellborn senior running back Chantz Goodman provided the push for the home team to win on such an emotional night. He carried the Panthers to a close 21-14 victory over Weaver.
“I felt like it was go big or go home,” Goodman said. “I just had to come out here and do what I could to make my senior night be a good senior night.”
Goodman accounted for 133 of Wellborn’s 224 rushing yards, while delivering critical touchdown runs of 6 and 20 yards to answer Weaver’s scores.
“It feels great with all the things Coach (Jeff) Smith and I have been through as long as I’ve been here,” said Goodman. “Being out here on senior night, it was emotional.”
With this victory, Wellborn (7-3) pushes its win streak to five games heading into the Class 2A state playoffs.
“It is huge to have momentum,” Smith said.
Added Panthers quarterback Landon Machristie: “We are riding high right now, and we are going to take it into the playoffs. We are feeling real good about our team and our chances in the playoffs.”
Wellborn didn’t get its first lead of the evening until 5:20 remaining in the game when Kevin Mixon took the Machristie handoff and walked in from 16 yards to put the Panthers up for good at 21-14.
However, it wasn’t all cheers.
By leaving Weaver with enough time to stake a comeback, Wellborn had to rely on its defense to close the game.
Quarterback Timothy Hawkins started the drive by finding Austin Jennings on three of four plays for gains of 11, 11, and 15 yards. Later in the drive, on fourth-and-four, Hawkins found Tyrone Johnson for 12 yards to keep the Bearcats alive.
After three straight incompletions, the Bearcats faced fourth-and-15 from the Wellborn 20 when the Panthers’ defense stepped up and sacked Hawkins to essentially end the game.
“It’s pretty much been the same thing the past four or five games — our defense has just been stepping up huge for us, especially on the final drive,” said Machristie, who also plays linebacker.
Despite going home with the loss, Weaver (4-6) have positive things to take away from this game.
“A lot of good things happened out of this game — we played hard, fought to the end, and played hard against a good playoff team,” said Weaver head coach Daryl Hamby. “It’s always hard-nose football against Wellborn.”
He added, “What really hurt us were penalties in key moments.”
Offensively, the Bearcats were led by Hawkins, who completed 14 passes for 200 yards, 8 were caught by Jennings, who hauled in 110 receiving yards and Hawkins’ lone touchdown pass. Running back Delo Forbes also added a 40-yard touchdown run for Weaver.