It took a touchdown with 15 seconds left on the clock at Dunbar High School to pull it out, but the Dallas Panthers came out victorious 28-24 over the Marshall Arch Angels in a pre-season battle between first-year teams.
The Arch Angels offense started off strong as they finished their first drive of the game with a touchdown. Running back Nolan Allen busted a 53-yard run before being tripped up at the one-yard line, but quarterback Jeremiah Fisher punched it in on the next play on a quarterback sneak to take an early 6-0 lead.
“The Marshall Arch Angels came to play and let me tell you, they have some talent over there,” Panthers general manager Charles Thornton told Developmental Football USA. “They have a running back who is very fast, a quarterback who is good at the read option and a wide out who can go get it.”
The Panthers – who were short-handed due to four players suiting up in the indoor game between the Dallas Marshals and the Arlington Longhorns and eight others out with injury – did not get rattled by being down early.
“We got to see a lot of the other players who needed to show if they can be used this season.” Thornton said. “A lot of them showed up, but some did not.”
Marshall kept the 6-0 lead well into the second quarter until the Panther defense forced a fumble deep in Arch Angels territory, which was recovered by first-year linebacker Zach Simpson for a Dallas touchdown. A Panthers missed extra point kept it tied up 6-6.
To build on their momentum, the Panthers came out on the ensuing kickoff with an onsides, which kicker Riley Majors recovered himself. Dallas drove all the way down to the Marshall eight-yard line but came up short of any points as the Marshall defense stood strong.
With 27 seconds left in the half, Fisher found one of his open wide receivers to get down to the Panthers 18-yard line, but time was not on their side. Scrambling to get another play in, with no timeouts left, the Arch Angels caught a huge break when the Panthers called a timeout with 11 seconds left in hopes of regaining composure.
The timeout backfired for Dallas as Alandric Tutt found wide receiver Tyshun Darty in the back of the end zone from 18 yards out to give the Arch Angels a 12-6 halftime lead.
After halftime, the Panthers quickly responded by putting together a drive that was capped off with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Cody James Colbath to former Louisiana-Monroe wide receiver Aaron Stringfellow to tie the game up 12-12.
Hungry to come away with a win in their first ever game, the Arch Angels fought their way back down the field on a drive that started at their own 30-yard line and regained the lead on a 10-yard plunge up the middle from running back Chavis Mills to go up 18-12. Marshall would take this lead into the fourth quarter.
The Panthers saw all they wanted to see of Mills and then some. Just a few minutes into the fourth, Mills was on the receiving end of a 70-yard touchdown bomb from Tutt to extend the Arch Angels lead 24-12.
“We had a lot of guys who showed up on offense today,” Marshall running back Nolan Allen told Developmental Football USA. “Tyshun Darty did really good against one-on-one coverages all night. Deonte Jordan had a couple of good long runs all night and was racking up receiving yards also and Chavis Mills also went over 100 all-purpose yards for the game.”
Down 12 points with less than six minutes to go, the Panthers dug down deep and put together quite a comeback. Dallas put together a touchdown drive which resulted in Colbath connecting with wide receiver Chris Miller from 22 yards out, followed by a Colbath pass to Majors for the two-point conversion to cut the lead to four, 24-20 with 5:20 to go.
When Marshall got the ball back, they began putting together a drive to milk the clock in hopes of escaping with the win, so Panthers coach Quentin Norris called a crucial timeout.
“Coach Q and myself pumped up the defense,” Thornton said. “I told them now is the time to fight and do whatever they had to do to get that ball back.”
And get the ball back they did.
The very next play out of the timeout, the Panthers defense forced a game-changing turnover and put the ball back in their offenses hands at the Marshall 38-yard line with 2:57 left in the game.
Not wanting to score too soon and give the ball back to the Arch Angels, the driving Panthers mixed in running plays in order to shave seconds off the clock. However, a penalty would soon put them in a critical 4th-and-15 with 28 seconds left and the game on the line.
After escaping the pressure, Colbath found tight end Dion Leonard, who caught the game-winning touchdown while sliding with 15 seconds to go, to put the game away 28-24.
“Key players that stepped up big on offense were running back James “Zip” Williams, who had about 100 yards rushing, fullback Frankey Crawford, who helped pound the ball and Cody James Colbath who passed for about 300 yards and three touchdowns to just one interception.
“The Panthers offensive line was figured out tonight and it worked on passing and running. I’m very proud of the effort we put in tonight to run the ball.”
Ashton Robertson – a first-year player in the Texas United Football League – was the man that pulled down that interception in the corner of the end zone for the Marshall defense, but he was just one of several Arch Angel defenders that had a big day.
Darius Brightman recovered a fumble off of a Trey Green strip, Darty had two interceptions called back due to penalties and Acie Smith had multiple sacks and tackles for loss.
The Arch Angels open up their TUFL season at home next Saturday, Feb. 25, against the Northeast Texas Raptors.
“Our team is looking forward to the TUFL season,” Allen said. “This was our first scrimmage and just our third day in pads. I believe with the speed and athleticism on both sides, we match up with anybody this season and we will be a tough team to handle.”
The Panthers, who were without key players Ice Bowman, Justin “Bus” Johnson, Turtle Burch, Juan Rico Reese, Corey Nelson, Jesse Smith and others, got to get their depth more experience as they get geared up for their Minor Professional Football League schedule.
“Some of our young guys showed they can hold it down,” Thornton said.
“Our key players on defense were led by the play of Ernie Story and Dedrick Grayson shutting down the middle on the run game. Bryson Smith, who normally plays running back, came in and found his calling as an outside linebacker and Mike Trotter helped lead the defensive backfield by putting players in position to make plays.”