Dr. Phillips Defense Leads Panthers Over Evans, 31-17
After getting virtually shut down in the first half, top-ranked Dr. Phillips exploded for 24 unanswered second half points to defeat visiting Evans, 31-17. DP (9-0) took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Deionte Gaines fielded a punt at the 31 and crossed the field down the home sideline for a 61-yard touchdown, but Evans responded with 1:23 left in the first half. The Trojans (6-2) connected on passes of 28 and 43 yards to tie the game at 7-7. Then just before the half Alton Meeks’ pass was intercepted on the ensuing drive and returned for a touchdown. In a span of 50 seconds, DP found itself down, 14-7, heading into the locker room.
In the third quarter, the Panthers struggled on their opening drive but the defense held firm. Evans seemed poised to take a commanding two-touchdown lead after driving to the DP seven yard line but had to settle for a field goal, the first points allowed in the third quarter by DP all year. Down 17-7, the Panthers came to life on offense. From the DP 24, Eric Harrell ran off five consecutive carries, including an 18-yard run on third down, to the Evans 42. Deionte Gaines ran for another 15 before Alton Meeks, making his first start since Olympia in week two, lofted a pass to Zach Autiello in the left corner of the endzone for a 26-yard touchdown. With 4:14 left in the third quarter, the margin was 17-14 but the momentum had shifted to the Panthers. On Evans’ next possession, the Panther defensive line of Tadailon Colvin, Kenderson Obas, Chadwick Williams and Auggie Amone stuffed the first carry for a loss of two. On second and 12 from their own 18, Evans quarterback Levar Robinson stepped up in the pocket to pass but Kenderson Obas blasted him from behind, knocking the ball loose, and linebacker Damarrion Ginlack pounced on the fumble to give DP possession at the Evans 20. Junior kicker Ricky Buckner knocked a 32-yard field goal through the uprights four plays later and after three quarters, the Panthers clawed their way back to a 17-17 tie.
The fourth quarter belonged to Dr. Phillips. The DP defense did not allow a single first down through their final four drives. After forcing an Evans punt and taking over at the Trojan 34, Eric Harrell busted through for a 21-yard gain down to the Evans 13 and plowed in from three yards out two plays later for a 24-17 lead. Harrell finished with 114 yards on the night, his sixth 100+ yard game of the season, and earned his second Apex Wealth Management Player of the Game honor. Another three and out by the DP defense gave the Panthers possession at the Evans 47 at the 4:40 mark and again, Harrell carried the load. The senior picked up a ten-yard gain on third and six to keep the drive alive at the Evans 33. After Marvin Marshall carried twice for seven yards, DP faced fourth and one at the 29 with under a minute remaining. Rather than surge for a first down against a stout Trojan front line, the Panthers took a gamble when Meeks tossed up a pass deep into the left corner for Deionte Gaines, who got behind the Trojan secondary for a game-clinching 29-yard touchdown. Gaines finished his night with 121 all-purpose yards and a pair of scores. The Dr. Phillips defense forced three turnovers; interceptions by Matt Milano and Davin Pierce and a fumble recovery by Damarrion Ginlack, and held the vaunted Evans offense to 25 yards on the ground, 167 total on the night. DP will close out its regular season schedule at Freedom next Friday to decide the District Championship.