The much anticipated pre-season battle between the DeSoto Tarantulas and Dallas Panthers was the dogfight everyone hoped it would be, until a Marty Barnett pick-six in the fourth quarter gave the Tarantulas a huge momentum swing and the eventual 24-6 win.
“Marty jumped the stop route, it was perfect timing,” Tarantulas head coach Giorgio Bostice told Developmental Football USA. “He caught it, avoided three tacklers and took it in for the touchdown. From that moment on our defense played great and our offense controlled the game.”
Saturday night’s game was the Suicide Awareness Bowl and all proceeds were given to Mental Health America of Greater Tarrant County.
“They were there and we had a great crowd out there with a great atmosphere,” Bostice said. “They were out there handing out t-shirts to everybody, letting them know suicide is not the answer. You can always call somebody, always text somebody, suicide is not the answer. I love their organization.”
The Panthers got on the board first when Cody Colbath found former Louisiana Monroe Warhawk wide receiver Aaron Stringfellow for a touchdown. A failed two-point attempt kept the score at 6-0 through the first quarter.
DeSoto answered in the second quarter on a 45-yard Vernon Sharp to Delenzia Turner-Green touchdown strike on a deep post route to put the Tarantulas up 7-6 heading into halftime.
“Mistakes killed us tonight,” Panthers general manager Charles Thornton told Developmental Football USA. “Other than that, it was a very even game. The game could have went either way, but tonight it was the Tarantulas night. Nothing but respect to them for taking advantage of the mistakes made by us.”
The Tarantulas got the ball again to open up the second half, but came up short as their drive ended with a missed field goal on a 32-yard attempt. However, the defense stood strong and forced a three and out and a Panthers punt, which only went 15 yards due to the wind.
DeSoto capitalized on the short field with a 32-yard Nathan Warren field goal to extend their lead to 10-6. At this point it had mostly been a defensive battle for both teams, but things would soon change in the fourth quarter.
“They had flag after flag and we kicked off from 50-yard line,” Bostice said. “We pinned them deep on the kickoff. I think they had the ball about the 28-yard line, their quarterback, Cody Colbath, threw the pick-six to Marty Barnett.”
Barnett, JaQuan Mills and Raymond Delcambre also had key interceptions for the Tarantulas.
“Colbath’s fourth quarter interception to make it 17-6 kind of put a blow in the game and a special teams kickoff return mistake gave them a short field to make the game look worse than it really was,” Thornton said.
Trailing 17-6, the Panthers put a drive together but stalled out on a fourth down attempt, needing six yards for a first down, from the Tarantulas 35-yard line.
“Chris Atchison-Lee, Timothy Crownover and Shannon Whitefield, those guys got after the quarterback,” Bostice said. “Chris Atchison-Lee had three tackles for loss and was constantly in their backfield.”
DeSoto regained possession and put together a 65-yard drive. Sharp found Travis Collins-Teague for a 32-yard gain to set the Tarantulas up on the one-yard line, where veteran running back and former UTEP Miner, Julius Williams punched it for another touchdown to go up 24-6.
“Our guys were resilient, everybody played with heart,” Bostice said. “Nobody gave up. Everybody stayed in the game, played physical and played fast.”
Tarantulas center Justin Eudy moved out to right tackle for the game after their starting center went down early with an injury.
“He was very impressive,” Bostice said. “He did everything you ask from him. He took care of the edge. I believe they changed the lineup.”
One Panthers defender especially impressed Bostice.
“Ernie Storie plays d-tackle for them,” Bostice said. “The first half, he was disruptive. He was in the backfield, doing his job, and that bottled up our offense a little bit.”
Despite the loss, Thornton saw a lot of positives to take away and build on.
“What I took out of the game is that we’ve got a lot of things to put together on the offensive side of the ball,” Thornton said. “We did not run enough tonight with the key backs that we have in Zip Williams and Justin Johnson, who both rushed for positive yards each time they carried the ball. Cody James Colbath had an OK game, but there were points left off the board on our end.
“Players that stepped up for us on defense were Ernie Storie, Ice Bowman and Brandon Groves had a big interception that could have turned the game our way. Michael Trotter also came away with a big interception in the third.”
With the win, the Tarantulas remain perfect in pre-season play and a late-game loss against DeSoto shouldn’t be something that concerns the Panthers too much as they head into their Minor Professional Football League schedule next month.
“They are a very impressive team,” Bostice said. “When I saw their schedule, I thought they were an 8-2 playoff team at least, looking in the MPFL. Cody has a lot of talent, Chris Mills, Riley Majors and they had another receiver. They are very impressive on offense, also James Williams, their running back.
“Defensively, their front four is solid. I can’t say anything bad about the way their front four played. Coach Norris and coach Mark (Hullum) called their defense and they called a great game. They’re very impressive up front. Their secondary played well, they competed and they were in the right spot. I think they’ll make a lot of noise in the MPFL.”