Panthers rout Hightower, sit alone atop district

By Tyler Tyre, Sports Editor
Posted 10/22/21

“It was nerve racking having to take on that big role,” Phillips said. “But I kept practicing and working hard so that the outcome would be great. The two games before this got me ready to see how everything feels. I got to this game and it was nothing new, I knew what to do.”

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Panthers rout Hightower, sit alone atop district

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The junior running back came into the season as a backup for Paetow, behind Jacob Brown. But after an injury to Brown, Phillips had to take on a larger role.

Phillips responded by rushing for 244 yards and five touchdowns over his next three starts, showcasing his talent and cementing himself as a part of the Paetow offense.

“Whenever Jacob got injured, I sat down with (Damyrion) and I said, ‘this is the time you’ve been waiting for.’” Said senior quarterback C.J. Dumas. “He was kind of nervous, but I told him that this is the same stuff he’s been doing his whole life. He came in and he’s played way beyond our expectations. It’s great to know that when Jacob does come back, we are going to have two powerhouse backs that we can give the ball to.”

Phillips saved his best performance for the most important game of the season so far for the Panthers, rushing for 164 yards and catching two passes for 50 yards while accounting for four touchdowns in Paetow’s 55-7 win over Hightower on Thursday at Rhodes Stadium.

The win keeps Paetow undefeated and on top of the District 10-5A, Division I standings with just two games left in the regular season.

“It was nerve racking having to take on that big role,” Phillips said. “But I kept practicing and working hard so that the outcome would be great. The two games before this got me ready to see how everything feels. I got to this game and it was nothing new, I knew what to do.”

It was a highly anticipated matchup between the two undefeated teams left in their district, but Paetow left little doubt as to which team is the frontrunner for the district championship.

Hightower started with the ball, but Paetow forced a punt and on Paetow’s opening drive as Phillips ran in a 33-yard touchdown.

Paetow stopped Hightower’s defense again, which was a theme on the night, and Dumas found Kole Wilson on a slant route that the receiver turned into a touchdown to give the Panthers a two score lead.

Dumas continued to be efficient in the second quarter, throwing a 43-yard touchdown pass to Phillips on a screen pass before throwing another touchdown to Josh Prieto on a bootleg late in the second quarter to give Paetow a 28-0 lead.

“We just stayed true to ourselves,” Dumas said. “A lot of teams get into these big games like this and they try to do some crazy stuff, but we stayed true to what we are. We pounded the ball every play and then mixed in run pass options and bootlegs and it just opened up.”

As good as Paetow’s offense was, it’s defense might have been even better. The Panthers kept Hightower in third and long all game and kept every offensive player for the Hurricanes in check. One of the few times Hightower started to move the ball downfield late in the second quarter, senior linebacker Alex Kilgore read a route and made an interception with just 50 seconds left in the half.

The Panthers front seven also harassed the Hightower backfield all night, shutting down the Hurricane run game, which had -28 yards rushing, and sacking Hightower quarterback Kendron Penson Jr. 10 times.

“We watch a lot of film so we we’re ready when they were going to do things and we knew their tendencies,” said sophomore defensive lineman Loghan Thomas. “It’s all about practice. We work hard during the week and it pays off.”

Paetow didn’t let up in the second half as Phillips scored on a 10-yard run and an 11-yard run, while Dumas threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Prieto and Gene Kendall ran in a touchdown from 1-yard out. Hightower’s lone score came on a 44-yard pass from Penson to Kaleb Johnson in the third quarter.

“We played team defense and all 11 guys did their job,” said Paetow head coach B.J. Gotte. “That’s the biggest thing is that they do their job, they fit their gaps and made plays when it came to them. That’s what I’ve been most impressed by and it shows the leadership. They’re all unselfish and play good team defense.”

Offensive line was a question mark coming into the year for Paetow but now its become a strength for the team as the unit helped lead the Panthers to 290 rushing yards and 231 passing yards. Seniors like James Bailey and Jeremiah Rashard have stepped up to help that emerge as forceful unit.

“It’s been fun to watch those guys embrace the challenge and then put in the work to be good,” Gotte said. “You don’t know how good you are until you go against great teams, and Hightower has a talented defense and has some really talented guys so the way our kids responded is really encouraging.”

Paetow is one win away from clinching at least a share of the district title, but they have a tough test in Manvel up next.

“You have to refocus on the new week,” Gotte said. “We’ll enjoy this win tomorrow and then get right back to work on Manvel. Obviously, they’re a storied program, they’ve had a lot of success and this is a huge test or us. We have to go back to work and make sure that we continue to work the way that we’ve had and not lose sight of what’s in front of us and what we have to get better.”

Paetow 55, Hightower 7

Hightower

0

0

7

0  

 --

 7 

Paetow

 14

14

13 

14 

 --

 55 

First quarter

Paetow: Damyrion Phillips 33 run (Nicholas Lira kick) 7:00

Paetow: C.J. Dumas 82 pass to Kole Wilson (Lira kick) 1:40

Second quarter

Paetow: Dumas 43 pass to Dumas (Lira kick) 10:43

Paetow: Dumas 27 pass to Josh Prieto (Lira kick) 3:05

Third quarter

Paetow: Phillips 3 run, 5:00

Hightower: Kendron Penson Jr. 44 pass to Kaleb Johnson (Armando Ventura kick) 2:45

Paetow: Phillips 11 run (Lira kick) 0:11

Fourth quarter

Paetow: Gene Kendall 1 run (Lira kick) 9:20

Paetow: Dumas 4 pass to Josh Prieto

Team stats

Hightower

 Paetow

  First downs

 12

 16

  Yards rushing

 26-(-28)

  34-290

  Yards passing

 231

  231

  Passes

 15-24-1-1

 11-55-4-1

  Punts

  7-30

 N/A

  Fumbles-lost

  2-1

  3-1

  Penalty-yards

  1-5

 2-10

Individual Statistics

Rushing -- Paetow: Damyrion Phillips, 19-164-3; Derrick Johnson, 4-76; Bryan Del Cid, 4-28; Jalyn Richardson, 3-12; C.J. Dumas, 2-8; Gene Kendall; Hightower: Jeremy Payne, 8-25; Brenden Eaglin, 4-7; Andreas Missick, 2-(-3); Kendron Penson Jr., 12-(-57)

Passing -- Paetow: C.J. Dumas, 11-15-231-4-1; Hightower: Kendron Penson Jr., 15-23-231-1-1; Caleb Douglas, 0-1-0-0-0

Receiving – Paetow: Kole Wilson, 2-85-1; Josh Prieto, 4-68-2; Damyrion Phillips, 2-50-1; Bryan Del Cid, 2-17; Jason Blue, 1-11; Hightower: Kaleb Johnson, 4-91-1; Caleb Douglas, 6-66; Jaden Adams, 3-38; Zion Kearney, 3-36

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