The Cleveland Panthers picked a great time to play their best game of the year in a 41-14 annihilation of visiting Red Bay in the first round of the playoffs.
“I’m really proud of how we played (against Red Bay). It was probably the most complete game we played all year – we had a good game plan and our players really executed almost perfectly. Our offensive line had its best game of the year, without a doubt. The defense had a great night, obviously, holding them down like we did. That was a very good football team that we beat.”
-Cleveland head coach
Cleveland took an early lead when Nick Randolph capped a Panther possession with a 3-yard run. Juan Castro drilled the extra point and the hosts led 7-0 with 2:49 to play in the first quarter.
On the next possession the lead grew to 14-0 when Randolph found a seam and raced 62 yards for a score.
Castro extended the margin to 17-0 with a 34-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
Red Bay finally got rolling and got on the board with a 9-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 17-7 with just 42 seconds left in the first half.
The Panthers promptly regained momentum on a short drive that ended when Castro boomed a 42-yard field goal on the final snap of the first half and the home team took a 20-7 lead to the break.
Cleveland put the game away in third quarter,goingup34-7onaapairof1- yard scoring runs from Caleb Collum and Randolph.
Collum then found Parker Gilliland for a 77-yard scoring toss early in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 41-7.
Red Bay came into the game averaging almost 260 rushing yards per game but the Panther defense limited the Tigers to just 115 yards on the ground. The Tiger passing game wasn’t much better, finishing 8 of 24 for 127 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
The Tigers focused on shutting down the read-option runs of Collum and it paid off as the senior managed just 5 yards on nine carries. Unfortunately for the visitors, the speed and quickness of Randolph was a different matter as the senior finished with 227 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.
Collum completed 5 of 8 passing for 120 yards with a touchdown but was picked off twice.
The Cleveland defense was led by Hunter Green’s 15 tackles. Collum had eight stops while Andrew Green had an interception and a fumble recovery. Kyle Willis had a fumble recovery and Elijah Longshore had an interception.
Red Bay ends the year at 8-3 while Cleveland (8-3) will travel to top-ranked Fyffe (11-0) for the second round this Friday.