The “Flame” still burns HOT !
12U Welcome All Panthers vs. Fairburn Flames
By: Jennifer Coe | @Gennexxt_jenni
(College Park, GA) The pressure was high at Welcome All Park, as the Metro Atlanta Youth Football League and other leagues across the city prepared for the extreme competition that would mark the final week of the regular season. The 12U Welcome All Panthers and the Fairburn Flames have had a very successful season; each team remains undefeated to this point and today they would battle to claim the undisputed spot as #1 spot and setting the stage for the playoffs.
The players took the field and lined up face-to-face, army-drill formation style, as Coach Keebo and Coach Watkins paced the center between both teams; each moment grew more and more intense, building the concentration and focus that would be exuded in this high-stakes match-up.
The first few minutes proved that both teams were relatively equally matched and just as determined to win. Each offensive play showed little to no movement and the ball remained at the 50-yard line, surrounded by a cloud of dust, kicked up after each hard hit and countless attempt to push past the line of scrimmage. In the midst of it all, Flames #73 and Panthers #50 were ejected after a scuffle just minutes into the 1st quarter. This put both teams at a disadvantage, being that both players are starters and key players for their teams. For now, these players would watch from the sidelines and prepare themselves to come strong to help their team in the 2nd half.
Flames struggled to get up the field with Panther defense on the warpath to stop anything that moved. An interception play by Panthers #21 after a long pass turned the tables and gave them possession for the first time. #33 gave the Panthers their first appearance in the red zone, but a tackle from #7 (Flames) would stop him short of a field goal; Flames would reclaim
possession at 4th down. The Fairburn Flames played tenaciously and pulled off a few good plays in the 1st half: #1 to #19 for the first down, #3’s run along the outside, plowing through, for another 15 yards, and #19’s spectacular NFL worthy catch in the middle of two Panther defenders. On the other hand, execution wasn’t always so flawless for either team; flags, repeated penalties, interceptions, missed catches and injuries plagued both sides. This game clearly meant a lot to both teams, but it become increasingly clear that the outcome would be determine by whoever made the least amount of mistakes, showed most discipline, and capitalized best on each opportunity to score.
Starting the 2nd half, 0-0, Coach Keebo and Coach Watkins would need to regroup and adjust their strategie. Just when the Panthers seemed ready to change the pace of the game, a slant pass was called by Coach Watkins of the Fairburn Flames at the 10-yard line, and a missed catch thrown by #1 to #4, would result in an interception by #21 for a 22-yard touchdown. Although the conversion play was unsuccessful, Fairburn was up 6-0, as the first to touch the end zone in the 3rd. Panthers answered with a 20-25 yard run for a 1st down. Somewhere within the play, #34 of the Fairburn Flames was badly injured and taken by ambulance for emergency care. It was this moment that the Fairburn Flames increased the intensity of the game even more, starting with a teeth-clinching hit by #4, taking down Panthers #33 in the very next play. Panthers #1 ran in from the 3-yard line for a touchdown, bringing the score to 6-6.
With the Panthers back on defense and 6:41 left in the 4th, Flames #3 made smashed his way through the line refusing to be taken down; so determined, that it took #5, #50, AND #25 to stop him.
Following a major catch by #2 and a pass to #7 in the red zone, Flames were up again with a 2nd touchdown, taking the lead again, 12-6. The clock was running out and only less than a minute remained; the Panthers would only have one more chance to tie the game or take the win if a touchdown and successful 1-pt conversion was achieved.
Panthers were almost pushed out of bounds but recovered, running up the side for a 1st down at the 13-yard line. A false start caused the Flames to be penalized and resulted in a 5-yard advance to the 9-yard line – 1st down Panthers. In the 2nd and 3rd down, Fairburn read the offense and stopped any attempt at gaining another yard. With the clock running, seconds left to the game, the Panthers quarterback throw attempted to hit his key receiver #4, only to be produce one of the most electrifying plays of the game.
FINAL PLAY: Panthers’ ball. 17 seconds on the clock. 4th down. Fairburn’s defense took formation at the 9-yard line. The ball was snapped. #1 caught the snap and threw it into the end zone for the touchdown that would tie and take them into overtime; only to be intercepted by Flames #18, who would return the ball 100-yards up the left side for the biggest touchdown of the game!