By Austin Bishop
The Choctaw Plaindealer
This season has been an interesting one for the Panthers of French Camp Academy, and it may get even more so come Friday night.
FCA, which played for the MHSAA Class 1A State Football Championship last season, lost its first four games of the season, but thanks to a return to health by several key players could be a force to reckon with once the 2013 playoffs begin on Friday.
The task will not be an easy one for the Panthers, who as the No. 3 seed out of Region 3-1A, have to hit the road to take on a strong Bogue Chitto team.
“They are a good team,” said FCA head coach Nathan Wright. “They are super big and have a good combination of size and speed. It’s going to be a long drive, but we are going to go down there and see what we can do.”
Even after putting together a four-game winning streak following the slow start, the Panthers have struggled at times this season — mostly due to injuries.
“I think Hagan Box is going to get his last apparatus taken off this week and that will be first time in a long time that we have had a whole team without a cast,” Wright said. “Maybe we can keep it that way.
“We have only really had two ballgames where we have had our whole team,” Wright said. “In both of those games we have done really well.”
That they have.
The Panthers whipped Region 3-1A contender Nanih Waiya 54-6 two weeks ago, then clinched a spot in the playoffs with a convincing 49-8 win over homestanding Sebastopol on Friday night.
“We really played well defensively,” Wright said of his team’s effort against the Bobcats. “We were in the right places and contained their speed and managed to keep them off the sideline and keep them boxed in a little bit.”
The 8-3 Panthers took a 14-0 lead after one quarter of play thanks to an 11-yard touchdown run by Michael Erving and a 33-yard scoring pass from Jesse Hosket to Erving.
Hosket finished the night with 243 yards on 11-of-12 passing, while Erving had six catches for 136 yards and rushed for 71 yards on seven attempts.
FCA’s second-quarter scores came on a 45-yard pass from Hoskett to Hunter McKnight, a 31-yard run by Box and a 22-yard scamper by Erving as the Panthers built up a 35-0 halftime advantage.
The third quarter saw Hosket score on a 1-yard run and Sam Howard score on a 6-yard run. Sam Gould was good on all seven of his extra-point attempts.
Sebastopol scored all eight of its points in the final quarter.
Box rushed for 61 yards on seven attempts and Howard 37 on five tries, while Cole Henson had three catches for 38 yards.
Henson and Nyang Wek had 10 tackles each to lead the winners, while Jevante McAdory had nine and Douglas Hughes, Hosket and Box record eight apiece. Cortez Johnson and Hunter McKnight were in on six tackles for the winners each, while Erving had five tackles, an interception and a punt block. Luke McKnight picked off two passes while McAdory recovered a fumble.