Lakeside coach Jarrett Troxler knows all the fumbles and giving up big pass plays could prove costly in the playoffs.
But at least he knows his team will be there.
The Panthers held on to beat Evans 21-14 on Friday night and clinch a spot in the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
“It’s big. It’s huge,” Troxler said. “When I first got here, we just wanted to get into the playoffs. Now we’ve been there three times in four years.”
The Panthers (5-4 overall, 4-2 in Region 2-AAAAA) defeated the Knights for the fourth year in a row, but they had to overcome three lost fumbles and Evans quarterback Matlin Marshall, who used his scrambling skills to keep plays alive and beat the defense with long completions.
Lakeside thrived behind a strong running game – as long as the backs held onto the ball.
Jonathan Edwards had 77 yards to lead all Panthers rushers Friday. Jalen Harrison and Josh Jones had 59 yards apiece, but fumbles
resuscitated Evans’ chances.
Panthers quarterback Hunter Banks did his part, throwing for 117 yards. His last completion was his longest, as he found McTier Mosley for a 47-yard strike that made it 21-7 in the third quarter.
Lakeside didn’t score again, and the Knights kept it close against a team that had scored at least 34 points in three consecutive games.
Because of the Lakeside turnovers and Evans’ dangerous passing game with receiver Jacob Rizner, the Knights had opportunities. But two second-half possessions ended with nothing, even though Evans made it into Panther territory.
The Knights closed the gap when Marshall’s mobility prolonged a fourth-down play, leading to a touchdown pass to Chandler Shoemaker to make it 21-14 with 2:17 left. Marshall threw for 174 yards.
However, the Knights (3-6, 1-5) didn’t get the ball back. Evans attempted the onside kick, but Lakeside recovered, and – when it mattered most – held onto the ball to run out the clock.
“We fought our butts off,” Knights coach Marty Jackson said. “We just kind of ran out of time.”