SMITHS STATION, Ala. — Smiths Station’s Cody Hussey couldn’t find any running room and went backward on his first three touches.
The junior wide receiver started the game at running back and had two carries for minus-4 yards. He then lined up at receiver and caught his first pass for minus-2 yards.
But before the game was over, Hussey would more than make up for the lack of production on his first three attempts.
He caught a 26-yard touchdown in the second quarter and sealed the game with a 13-yard touchdown with 3:14 left, propelling the Panthers to a 14-0 win against Russell County on Friday night at Panther Stadium.
"I was ready for the ball whenever it came my way," said Hussey, who finished with four catches for 57 yards. "I wanted it real bad."
With Hussey returning to his regular position and Chris Whitehorn and Robert Frinks out with injuries, Smiths Station (1-2, 1-1 Class 6A, Region 3) relied on a couple of unlikely sources to carry the ball. Sophomore Drew Ellis, who started the game at guard, led the Panthers with 59 yards on nine carries. Sophomore Garrett Burns, who didn’t play until the fourth quarter, had 25 yards on Smiths Station’s second scoring drive.
“We were able to run the ball well,” Smiths Station coach Woodrow Lowe said. “Some guys stepped up for us. When you lose two backs, it’s hard. We don’t have them stockpiled.” Besides its two scoring drives, Smiths Station didn’t move the ball very much. The Panthers finished with 173 yards.
The Smiths Station offense never really found its rhythm in the first half. The Panthers were more productive in the second quarter after gaining 10 yards in the first quarter.
Smiths Station finally got something going after Bryant Frazier recovered a fumble. The Panthers went 57 yards on five plays for the only touchdown of the first half.
Ellis carried the ball three times for 18 yards on the drive and helped open the passing game. After four consecutive runs, Kyle Barr hit Hussey, who went 26 yards for the touchdown with 7:05 remaining in the half.
“Our defense played great and gave us an opportunity to win,” Russell County coach Rico White said. “The offense didn’t answer. We had our chances to make plays.”
Barr’s timing was off throughout the first half as he completed 6-of-12 for 38 yards and a touchdown. He also fumbled once and was intercepted on the final play of the half when he threw a deep ball for Alex Phillips.
He was much more efficient in the second half, completing 3-of-5 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.
The Warriors (1-2, 0-2) controlled the opening quarter, but it didn’t translate into any points. Russell County drove to the Smiths Station 35 on the opening drive of the game, but turned it over on downs.
The Warriors again got the ball into Smiths Station territory on their third possession. That drive ended when the Warriors ran a fake punt on fourth-and-8. Darius Streeter was dragged down short of the first down.
The Warriors then had their best scoring chance of the game on their first drive of the third quarter, trailing 7-0. Quarterback Jacorey Battle guided the Warriors inside the 20. He ran for 27 yards and 35 yards on the drive.
With the ball on the Panthers 11, Battle threw four straight incomplete passes in the end zone.
“They did a real good job of disguising their defense,” White said. “We didn’t make the plays. It’s part of the growing pains.”