By Austin Bishop
The Choctaw Plaindealer
After winning 11 games and playing for the MHSAA Class 1A State Championship last season, the French Camp Academy Panthers find themselves looking for their first win of 2013 heading into the fourth week of the season.
FCA led by double digits most of the night against Kemper County on Friday, but the visiting Panthers used four big pass plays late to rally for a 26-24 win. FCA had a chance to win, but a 51-yard field goal attempt came up just short with a minute to play in the game.
Not only are the 0-3 Panthers trying to snap their losing streak, but they are forced to do it against what is expected to be one of the better teams in Class 1A as they travel to Noxapater to take on the Tigers.
“We had to remind our kids that everything we have played up to this point has been to prepare us for this one,” FCA head coach Nathan Wright said of the Region 3-1A opener. “Obviously you would rather open district play against somebody else, but by the same token you are gong to have to play them sometime. You might as well go ahead and get it taken care of. This will establish where we are in the district.”
French Camp, which played in Region 2-1A last year, and Noxapater, which is the defending Region 3-1A champion, were preseason favorites to be the top two teams in the league before the season began.
Both teams have gotten off to slow starts with FCA losing to Choctaw County, Eupora and Kemper County, and Noxapater falling to Eupora and East Webster before taking a 44-6 win over Vardaman last week.
FCA took advantage of Kemper County turnovers to jump out to a 14-0 lead over the Wildcats, before the visitors took advantage of the Panthers lone turnover of the game to put together a short drive and cut that advantage to 14-6 at the half.
“That really gave them some momentum going into the second half,” Wright said. “We were up 14-0 and felt like we were in control of the game for most of the first half.”
FCA managed to work its lead back out to 24-14 before the Wildcats used a long pass and a pass interference call to get into field position and then hit on two long touchdown passes to take the 26-24 lead and eventually win the game.
The Panthers took their 14-0 first-quarter lead on touchdown passes of 30 and 20 yard from Jesse Hosket to Hunter McKnight. Hosket hit McKnight with a 34-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and Sam Gould was good on a 42-yard field goal.
Hosket hit on 10-of-22 passes for 179 yards and rushed for 61 yards on 16 carries. Cole Henson had four catches for 58 yards, while McKnight had three for 84 yards, Hagan Box two for 25 and Aaron Witt one for 12.
Daniel Hughes led FCA with 10 tackles, while Douglas Hughes had nine and Hosket seven. Box, Cortez Johnson and Jevante McAdory had six tackles each for FCA, with Box and Luke McKnight each recording five apiece. Nyang Wek recovered a fumble for the Panthers, while Hosket and Hunter McKnight each intercepted a pass.