The rainfall was light just before the coin toss Saturday night, but it was enough to turn the gridiron into a sauna and let the Tri-County Panthers know they were on the Hinesville Hurricanes home turf.
And to prove it the Hurricanes went on to defeat the visiting team 20-6 at the Mary Jo Sharp Memorial season opening game.
The Panthers had the ball first but were stymied by the Hurricane defense. The visiting team was forced to punt and the ‘Canes had a solid return. Quarterback Frank Troup opened his offense with a pass to Timothy Sapp and the Hinesville team got a first down at the Panthers’ 39-yard line.A few plays later ‘Canes running back Joseph Matavao lined up as the QB as the ‘Canes ran the wildcat. Matavao took the snap and powered through five missed tackles for another ‘Canes first down. That set up two runs from Kendrick Badger who crossed into the end zone.
The ‘Canes missed the extra point.
In their next offensive drive, the Panthers quarterback looked down field for his receiver and tossed the pigskin deep. ‘Canes defender Marcus Simpson intercepted and brought the ball back to the Panthers’ 14 yard line. Badger broke through the pack on fourth and short and the quarter closed with the ‘Canes earning a new set downs inside the Panther’s 10-yard line. Five seconds into the second quarter the ‘Canes scored a touchdown, but missed the 2-point conversion.
The Panthers were driving toward the goal as the two minute warning approached before intermission. Looking to score before the break the Panthers’ quarterback was looking for an open receiver when Sapp blitzed and sacked him, forcing a fumble. ‘Canes defender James Nunnally picked up the ball, but the Hinesville team was unable to score before halftime.
In the third quarter, Matavao broke the plain from the 15-yard line. This time the boys converted for 2-points, taking a 20-0 lead.
The Panthers were held to zero until the last two minutes of regulation. They were able to mount an offensive drive by opening the passing game and hit a receiver in the corner of the end zone. But the visiting team failed to convert the extra point and time ran out, giving the Hinesville team their first win of the regular season.