MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Huntingdon football team battled back from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter but couldn't complete the comeback on Saturday at Samford Stadium.
Trailing 24th-ranked Birmingham-Southern by a touchdown, with the ball on the Panthers' 35-yard line and four seconds left in the game, Huntingdon quarterback Neal Posey launched a pass to the end zone. Birmingham-Southern's Jordan Culliver broke up the pass to seal a 45-38 win and give the Panthers their third straight win over Huntingdon.
"That was a pretty dang good football game," Huntingdon head coach Mike Turk said. "We had our chances on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. We took advantage of some and we let some slip away.
"There was a time there, when it didn't look like it was going to be our day. We kept plugging and we kept battling and when it was all said and done, we were able to get back in it. We were able to make a big stop to get the ball back one last time and we had an opportunity to win the game. We got it down there and positioned ourselves to take a couple of shots at the end zone. If we execute a little better, who knows, it might have been a repeat of last year."
Saturday's ending brought back memories of the 2011 game. Last season, Birmingham-Southern rallied from a 19-point deficit in the second half, scored on a 41-yard pass as time expired to force overtime and won in double overtime.
The Hawks' situation was similar on Saturday. After Huntingdon turned the ball over on downs at the Birmingham-Southern 1-yard line, Joseph Moultrie scored on a 99-yard touchdown run to give the Panthers a 45-24 lead with 7:14 to play.
The Hawks (1-1) answered with a pair of quick scores to get back in the game. Posey hit Ephraim Johnson on a 6-yard touchdown strike to cap an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive and make it a 14-point game with 5:02 to play.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Hawks kicked an onside kick and recovered the ball at their own 44-yard line.
Posey and Johnson hooked up again, this time on a 13-yard scoring pass to cap a 6-play, 56-yard drive and make it a seven-point game with 2:59 remaining.
A second onside kick was unsuccessful, but the Huntingdon defense came through with a much-needed stop with 1:20 to play. With the Panthers (2-0) needing just two yards to get a first down and run out the clock, Huntingdon dropped Birmingham-Southern for a 1-yard loss on third down.
On the final drive, the Hawks marched from their own 20 to the Panthers' 35 in seven plays to set up two final attempts. On first down, Posey tried to connect with Austin Worley in the end zone but the ball fell incomplete. On the final play, Culliver broke up Posey's pass in the end zone to end the game.
"I'm proud of the way our guys fought, but today was proof that effort is not all that's got to be there. We have to execute as well," Turk said. "We have to get to where all 11 guys on the field are doing what they're supposed to do a high percentage of the time. When that happens, we're going to be good. We have good players on both sides of the ball. We've just got to get some things ironed out."
Posey led the offense, completing 26-of-42 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson caught nine passes for 173 yards and Robinson had six catches for 123 yards, including a 39-yard gain on fourth-and-nine to keep the Hawks' final scoring drive alive.
Birmingham-Southern took advantage of big plays throughout the course of the game to build its lead.
Panthers' running back Shawn Morris, a first-team All-American last season, rushed for 123 yards on 15 carries and scored on runs of 6 and 69 yards. Moultrie added 111 yards on 11 carries and scored on a 6-yard run to go along with his 99-yard run.
Birmingham-Southern quarterback Jimmy Stainback rushed for 77 yards on 15 carries and completed 11-of-16 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Stainback hit Michael Cowan for a 46-yard touchdown pass and Sam Vermilyea for a 67-yard touchdown strike.
Huntingdon returns to action at LaGrange on Sept. 15.