SMITHS STATION, Ala, -- After a lackluster first half on Friday at home, Smiths Station was looking for some consistent offensive production after the break to ensure victory.
Enter Preston Reynolds and J.J. Dancy.
The two tailbacks carried the ball on nearly every play in the second half, gaining big chunks of yardage and helping the Panthers hang on for a 28-19 victory over region-foe Jeff Davis.
The Panthers (2-2, 2-1 Class 6A Region 3) led 14-7 going into the second half despite allowing just 57 yards and forcing four Volunteer turnovers in the first two quarters.
They scored on back-to-back drives to open the second half, however, giving the Volunteers (0-4, 0-2) a heavy dose of the two running backs.
On a five-play 57-yard drive, Reynolds carried twice for 16 yards and Dancy carried twice for 27, including a 23-yard touchdown run that extended the Panthers' lead to 14.
After Smiths Station's Johnny Woods intercepted a pass on the ensuing Jeff Davis drive, the Panthers went back to the two backs for a 11-play, 73-yard drive, culminating in a 5-yard Reynolds run for a score to make it 28-7 with :42 remaining in the third.
On the drive, Reynolds carried seven times for 40 yards and a score, and Dancy had four carries for 33 yards.
All total, the two backs combined for 37 carries for 246 yards in the game.
"It wasn't totally there in the first half, but we were able to get it going in the second," said Reynolds, who said it was his first time starting on varsity. "It felt great."
Dancy, who scored three touchdowns in the game, thanked his offensive line for its effort in the second half.
"We had to get something going," he said. "We tried not to worry too much, and they were able to help us put something together in the second half."
Of Dancy's three touchdown runs, his 23-yarder was the most dynamic.
Leading by just seven points, Dancy took the ball around the left end and appeared to be bottled up by a Jeff Davis defender. The shifty back twisted out of the tackle, however, and broke free toward the end zone for the score.
"I just kept moving my legs," he said. "I never quit on the drive."
That's what appeared to be happening in the first half, when Smiths Station forced five Jeff Davis turnovers and recovered four.
The Panthers allowed just 57 yards, all on the ground, but led by just seven going into the half due, in part, to a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown by the Volunteers' Therron Presley.
"If they don't turn the ball over, they're really a very good team," Smiths Station coach Mark Rose said after the game. "That being said, that was the worst half of football I've seen us play, and that was partly my fault. There was no sense showing up to play like that."
Speaking about the 90-yard punt return, which tied the game at 7-7 with 4:46 left in the second quarter, Rose said the kick coverage could half cost his team the game.
"It really cost us big in the first half, and put us in some bad situations in the second half," he said.
He did say he was pleased with his team's effort on the defensive side of the ball, however, which allowed just a 52-yard touchdown run by Jeff Davis' Sadan Knight early in the fourth and another 6-yard run by Knight to cut the score to 28-19 in mop-up time with just :19 left in the game.
"That one (52-yard) toss play was really about all we gave up," he said.
Rose said the win was big, but his team needed to come out with more effort and intensity going forward.
"It was a big region win, and I'm proud of them for that," he said. "But we're going to need more out of them going forward."
Friday at Smiths StationsJeff Davis 0 7 0 12--19
S. Station 7 7 14 0--28First Quarter
SS--Dancy 2 run (Jones kick); 5:20
JD--Presley 90 punt return (Walker kick); 4:46
SS--Dancy 8 run (Jones kick); 3:07
SS--Dancy 23 run (Jones kick); 7:46
SS--Reynolds 5 run (Jones kick); :43
JD--Knight 52 run (kick failed); 10:51
JD--Knight 6 run (pass failed); :19
Records: Jeff Davis (0-4, 0-2); Smiths Station (2-2, 2-1) Next: Jeff Davis, Sept. 28 at Stanhope Elmore; Smiths Stations, Sept. 28 at Beauregard